LINCOLNSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST SPEAKS OUT ON CANINE 'PREDATORS'
Bird and other nature charities seldom raise the question of canine menace for fear of sparking a backlash from their many dog-owning members.
But with the number of dogs in the UK now approaching nine million, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has decided the time has come to speak out.
In a hard-hitting article (whose author's identity is not divulged), it states: "Imagine you are a small ground-nesting bird.
"Everywhere there are threats from predators. You are constantly vigilant.
"Then suddenly, running towards you, there is a ferocious beast, many times your size and with jaws that could crush, eviscerate and swallow you.
"You are terrified. What's worse is that this beast and others like it regularly come here. In fact, the landscape is swarming with them.
"Instinct kicks in , you abandon the area. It is too dangerous."
Unsurprisingly, the focus of the article is on the impact of dogs on the LWT's own reserves including one where four grazing sheep died after being attacked by Jack Russell terriers.
But in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area, bird populations have been reduced at sites such as the local nature reserve that run between the leisure centre and Humberston Fitties. With dogs running loose, this has become essentially a canine playground.
In Cleethorpes country park, one edge of the lake has become a no-go area for migrating sandpipers and other waders because it has been designated a swimming area for dogs.
At the Humberston end of the RSPB's Tetney Marshes nature reserve, wildfowl and waders are frequently disturbed by dogs many of whose owners disregard notices appealing for them to be kept on leads.
The article acknowledges that dogs are "beloved companions" for many people, but it continues: "Even in the time when wolves roamed these lands, there were never so many of them as there are dogs now. Wildlife has not evovled to deal with such an unprecedented number of predators.
"Areas with regular dog walking can see a 35 per cent reduction in wildlife.
"Dogs are a beloved companion for many people, but to wildlife they are a big and scary predator."
At its nature reserve in Whisby, near Lincoln, there is a constant niggling worry that the county's last known breeding nightingales could be driven away.
Wardens on LWT-owned reserves try to discourage dog-owners by educating them about the peril to birds and other wildlife - but not all dog-owners take kindly to the advice.
On its website, the LWT makes the following additional points:
- Piles of dog dirt on sensitive habitats such as meadows and heathlands can change the nutrient levels in the soil, changing the species of plants that grow.
- Dog dirt on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is classed as a Potentially Damaging Operation.
- They may be domesticated but dogs are predators. Grazing livestock, birds, mammals and other animals are worried by the mere presence of a dog, even a well behaved one on a lead.
- There have been a number of serious incidents of sheep on Trust nature reserves being attacked by dogs.
- Ground nesting birds may be forced to desert their nests if dogs are frequently in the vicinity.
- Disturbance by dogs, and humans, can cause seals to abandon their pups.
- Dog dirt contains a micro-organism called Toxicaria canis that can cause blindness in people who come in contact with it. Many nature reserves are used for educational purposes. Dog dirt is a significant hazard to children and adults.
- Please make sure you are allowed to walk a dog in the place you are visiting
- Please keep your dog under close control at all times
- Pick up after your dog and dispose of poo responsibly
- Respect other visitors, especially those with children
- Please do not allow your dog to jump up at other visitors
- Please do not allow your dog or their lead to become entangled with other visitors
- Please respect signs and requests from nature reserve team
|The controversial article which appears in the Winter 2016 edition of the Horncastle-based LWT's quarterly magazine, Lapwings.|