Dog walkers… please help our ground-nesting birds this spring!

(C) Peter Cairns/2020Vision

We all love to get outdoors with our dogs, for the fantastic exercise and the chance to explore together. Please be an aware and responsible dog walker and help us keep Yorkshire’s wildlife safe this spring.

 The celebrated song of the skylark or burbling call of curlew are evocative and welcome spring sounds, as we start to explore our wonderful countryside again. Birds like these – whose numbers are in worrying decline – are currently making their fragile nests on the ground, tucked away safely in long grass.

What's the problem?

An exuberant or inquisitive pooch, wandering or bounding through grass or heather, could easily disturb wildlife and scare adult birds off nests or trample eggs. And the vulnerable chicks can quickly perish if they are left alone for too long.

Where must I keep my dog on a lead?

Yorkshire is blessed with huge expanses of stunning moorland which, along with mountain, heath, down and some common land, is open access or has a right to roam.

Many are unaware, but the law says that you must keep your dog on a lead no longer than 2 metres between 1st March and 31st July, when on any open access land to protect ground-nesting birds. For safety, you should also always keep your dog a lead around grazing animals, although it’s safer to let your dog off if you are chased by cows or horses.

For an easier and more worry-free experience, stay on the trails and paths when visiting these places.

Can I take my dog to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve?

Nature reserves are first and foremost havens for wildlife; refuges for incredibly rare plants, animals and birds, or pit-stops and roosts for those moving about. We know how important the outdoors is for the health and wellbeing of all the family – and responsible walkers can help us by taking care when visiting and cleaning up after their dogs.

There are some reserves where we kindly ask you not to bring your dog. This is usually because the wildlife living there is under threat and has nowhere else to go, which even the sweetest, most easy-going pup could disturb and upset.

At reserves like Spurn, we have designed a circular route especially for dog walking away, which takes you away from the vulnerable areas around the Point. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust welcomes well behaved walkers who keep their dogs on leads, or under close control on the rights of way and on some boardwalks. All our nature reserves are unique, so please always check online before you visit any of them with your dog.

If you’d like to know more, the Countryside Code has lots of information and reminds us to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors. We’ll be saying more about this in our next blog and sharing the sort of practical advice we can all definitely get behind here in God’s Own County!