The breeding season for ground nesting birds and livestock has arrived again (so soon?), and with the coming of spring National Parks have started issuing their traditional annual advice to dog walkers.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority, along with the RSPB, is asking people to keep dogs under close control or on a short lead during the bird breeding season, which lasts from around now through to mid August.
Forests in the National Park are home to the rare capercaillie, and loose dogs disturbing birds at nesting time can have a real impact on chick numbers. This goes for the open moorland and farmland too, where uncontrolled dogs can play havoc with ground nesting waders and lambing sheep alike.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides comprehensive advice for dog walkers.
A similar plea has been issued by the Peak District National Park Authority, who say that declining ground nesters such as lapwing, curlew and snipe are particularly vulnerable to harm from dogs roaming free or on long leads.
Tara Challoner, Peak District Wader Recovery Project officer said:
'You may not always be aware that birds are present which can easily lead you into thinking that the moors and fields are great empty places, perfect for letting your dog have a good run around. However many of these birds are in very serious trouble and we need to do all we can to ensure that they are not lost from our countryside forever.'
Signs reminding people to keep their dogs under control have gone up on gates and stiles across the Peak District. By law here, dogs must be under control on public rights of way and on a short lead on open access land from March 1 to July 31. In fields containing farm animals and nesting birds it is sensible to keep dogs on a lead.
Peak District National Park Ranger manager Jenny Waller said:
'Walking a dog is one of the joys of the countryside, but we ask all dog-owners to think about young animals and keep their pets on short leads during this particularly sensitive time.'
'Sheep and lambs can be badly injured or killed by uncontrolled dogs. For its own safety, never let a dog approach or chase farm animals or wildlife – your dog can get kicked, trampled or lost, and it could be legally shot for chasing farm animals.'
'Cows will often defend their calves by turning on a dog. If that happens it’s best to unclip the lead – a dog can usually look after itself – and get out of the field as quickly as possible, then call your dog as soon as you are out of danger.'
'Legally, you do not have to use a lead on public paths, but you should be extra-vigilant in the breeding season, and always use a lead if you can’t rely on your dog’s obedience.'
At certain times dogs are not allowed at all on some areas of the Peak District, to protect sensitive breeding sites. Signs will indicate where this is the case.
For the, ahem, woof-icial line on dogs in the hills in England see the Countryside Code.