Dogs and Wildlife
Dogs may be our best friend but that doesn't mean they get on fine with wildlife too. We have said that allowing dogs free access to roam across the land would be a severe mistake. This is not an anti-dog stance. Many of our supporters are dog owners but they accept the evidence. Indeed common sense must acknowledge that any interference in a natural habitat is likely to be disruptive: the issue is simply one of where to draw the line between human wishes and wildlife protection. We hope the line for Battlemead can be in the right place to give our wildlife the best chance.
The evidence is clear that dogs chasing wildlife would have a very detrimental and long-term impact on foraging and breeding animals, while dog faeces degrade the land. A survey in Inside Ecology reports that disturbance (by dogs) had:
significant adverse effect on the time that birds spent foraging for food
caused a 41% reduction in the numbers of individual birds detected
there was as a 35% reduction in species richness compared with untreated controls
The report explains that "uncontrolled off-lead activity can cause problems of disturbance to species, particularly ground nesting birds and reptiles. Studies have shown that even when a dog is on a lead, the presence of the animal can result in the altered behaviour of birds and other species, this can cause ground-nesting birds to leave the nest, resulting in the loss of young birds".
Dogs have also been shown to cause a greater behavioural reaction than walkers alone – a study in 2009 by the University of Hull for the Humber Nature Partnership revealed that "dog walking caused significant disruption to water birds, with off-lead dogs causing more disruption than any other activity on the Humber coast except for low flying jet aircraft, which had the same category of severe disruption".
The issue is, of course, not badly behaved dogs but lack of care and consideration by a few dog owners. We hope they will all respect the wonderful environment at Battlemead and allow all of us to enjoy it and the wildlife to thrive.
Photo: Dogtra UK