Country Corner

Dog sign
Dog sign

This week I reproduce a poster widely used by East Lothian Ranger Service over recent years.

In an attempt to minimise the disturbance of nesting birds by uncontrolled dogs, these signs have appeared in many coastal areas.

In fact, they could equally well apply to all rural areas during the summer months.

It seems many folk these days exercise their dogs by turning them loose in the countryside and allowing them to run wild and outwith control, often out of sight. These owners will say their dogs are “only playing”.

What they are actually doing is hunting.

The fact that most of them rarely if ever catch anything does not alter the fact that their behaviour is extremely stressful to all other species.

Ground nesting birds include skylark, meadow pipits, woodcock, partridge, pheasant, swans, ducks, lapwings, curlews, short eared owl, and of course farmyard poultry which are frequently attacked by loose dogs.

There are many other species of ground nesters, or at least there would be if regular disturbance by dogs did not discourage them from using many areas.

Mammals too hide their vulnerable young on the ground.

Roe deer, hares and hedgehogs are just an example of species whose young are regularly killed or injured by dogs, as are numerous sheep and lambs.

Of course, in many cases the owners are unaware of the damage being done.

These folk are not tuned in enough to be aware of the strident alarm calls of nesting birds which should be a cue to any responsible owner to keep their dog close, or on a lead.