Please be responsible dog owners

Spring is a special time for nature; it’s the most optimistic of times with bursting buds and the awakening sounds of birdsong. But it is also the most vulnerable of times for wildlife when the focus is firmly on getting on with the next generation. On Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve we are fortunate to have a wide range of plants and animals, including special orchids and internationally protected mammals, but next time that you are on the nature reserve, look around you; the chances are that you will see animals, but they will be dogs!

Dog-walking on the reserve is great for dogs but it is a big problem for the wildlife. At this time of year, ground-nesting birds such as skylark and meadow pipit will be looking to nest in the open grassland, with snipe and reed bunting seeking a safe place to raise a family amongst the taller sedges and reeds. For them dogs are a major threat; dogs mean danger. Dogs will rarely directly kill birds but your dog, running through the meadows or crashing about in the undergrowth will frighten them off the nest, forcing them to abandon the reserve, which should be a place of sanctuary. It’s not just birds; our mammals, amphibians and reptiles will also all avoid dogs and every dog-walk will have its impact.

Less obvious but just as devastating is the damage that dogs cause to our freshwater wildlife. Dogs love water. People love their dogs and caring for your dog can include giving them regular flea treatments; but did you know that these treatments can be deadly toxic to freshwater life? To make matters worse, they are usually very water soluble and so will wash off any dog that goes into the brook, killing the aquatic insects that are important in their own right but which also feed our fish, affecting the otters, kingfishers and herons that, in turn feed on them.

This Spring please enjoy a walk with your dog but still help to protect wildlife on the nature reserve:

  • Keep your dog on a short lead during the spring and summer breeding season
  • Keep your dog out of the water if it has had any flea or tick treatments
  • Vary your walks; use the nature reserve less often to help the wildlife raise its next generation undisturbed.