We all know that wildlife is in trouble, but you may not know that simply by keeping our dogs on a lead at this critical time of year we can help protect endangered species.
Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust are thrilled that so many people are re-connecting with nature across the region, including at nature reserves such as Blacka Moor, Wyming Brook and Kilnhurst Ings.
Whilst the Trust welcomes responsible visitors, we are also raising awareness that the pressure of increasing numbers can be devastating for some of our most iconic and critically endangered birds.
Ground-nesting birds like curlew, wood warbler, skylarks and lapwings are very vulnerable to disturbance. Their nests are so well camouflaged they can easily be accidentally destroyed, while the added stress of a dog running across the landscape can seriously disrupt adults trying to feed their chicks.
Help endangered species
In 2020 the increase in disturbance caused by visitors and their dogs meant that no lapwing, oystercatcher, ringed plover, little ringed plover or sandpiper successfully raised any chicks at Redmires, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and part of the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership. These birds are all in decline, and some are critically endangered, so this disastrous blow can’t be allowed to occur again.
We want people to enjoy all our nature reserves and local green spaces, but in order to protect the wildlife which calls it home we need everyone to behave responsibly and lawfully. Keeping your dog on a short lead and staying on the paths helps deliver the best of both worlds – access to nature while protecting vulnerable wildlife. In fact, it’s a legal requirement to keep a dog on a lead of no more than two metres on open access land between 1 March and 31 July.
Please keep dogs on leads and follow the countryside code
Keeping dogs on a lead also helps protect grazing livestock on the Trust’s nature reserves. We ask people and their pets to stay as far away from livestock as possible while walking at this time of year to avoid disturbing them – but if cattle do get startled and run towards you, let your dog off the lead for your own safety.
“Accessing nature is important and we love to see people and their pets enjoying nature reserves and green spaces,” says Marta Alfaro Tirado, Nature Recovery Manager (South) at Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, “we are just asking people to do so in a responsible way which protects vulnerable wildlife now and for future generations.
“It is tempting to let dogs off their leads in open spaces, but the cost to endangered species can be huge. Please always follow the Countryside Code whilst enjoying your visits.”
You can find more guidance at wildsheffield.com/countrysidecode
For more information on Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, please visit wildsheffield.com/nature-reserves
Image: Walkers and their dogs enjoying nature at Wyming Brook, © Helena Dolby