Dog owners are being asked to keep their pets under control during the nesting season because they are a danger to the birds.
The Wildlife Trust for North Merseysid, Lancashire and Manchester are concerned that dogs will be causing distress for nesting birds and wild mammals if they are allowed to run free.
The gruesome discovery of a lapwing and its chicks which had been savaged to death by a dog on Little Woolden Moss, in Salford, has led to the calls for more vigilance from dog owners.
Wildlife Trust Campaigns Manager Alan Wright said: “The lapwing and its chicks were killed by a dog which had disturbed their nest. Imagine the distress that the parent lapwing went through as it tried to defend its chicks?
“Only last year, I watched in horror as a pair of lurcherschased a young roe deer through woodland. The fawn was in complete panic and the dogs, which were pets,were letting out frenzied barks as they chased it. It was a horrible thing to witness.”
Young wild birds and animals are particularly vulnerable to attack, many only a couple of days or weeks old in spring. Ground nesting birds, like lapwing, skylark and curlew may only be metres away from popular paths on moorland and in woods.
Many of these attacks are not deliberate and are just carelessness on the part of the owners.
Alan said: “I am sure that 99 per cent of dog owners do not intend their dogs to harass wildlife but, at this time of year, you need to be in control of your pet. In many cases that would mean putting your dog on a lead.”
“My dog never strays far from me on a walk and stays on paths, so he is under control. If I feel there is a situation where he – or another dog – may misbehave, I immediately put him on his lead.”
“Every day I see owners out with their dogs, allowing their pets to tear off into woodland or onto moors. Sometimes they do not see them for minutes on end which, in the nesting season, is not good news for creatures seeking cover nearby.”
It is important that nesting birds are undisturbed during spring and summer so their chicks have time to grow and look after themselves.
The lockdown has meant many birds have been left alone on moorland and in woods for weeks, so it could mean a bumper year for wildlife, but that is no reason for complacency according to conservationists.
Alan said: “We are getting reports of a lot of wildlife getting closer to people as they are not used to seeing us this year, but that could mean danger if your dog is one that has not been trained to chase wild animals. Let’s not forget the lambs that are around at the moment.
“As always, it comes down to the owner being in control of their pet. As an owner your pet cannot do anything wrong in your eyes until it savages a bird or another dog, so you must know your dog and keep it under control.”
Dogs must be on leads on all of the open-access nature reserves belonging to the Wildlife Trust. Dogs are not allowed on the Brockholes Nature Reserve, except for the Guild Wheel path, but they must be on leads.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.