Residents using Workington’s nature reserves and green spaces are being urged to keep their dogs on leads in order to protect the rich array of wildlife that call those areas home.
As many people remain on furlough leave or are exercising closer to home due to the coronavirus, more people are using the town’s green spaces, areas which may be unfamiliar to them.
While those managing those nature reserves and open spaces welcome more visitors, they are encouraging residents, in particular dog walkers, to know the various laws which exist to the protect wildlife and be aware that they may come into contact with protected species.
In the parklands and green spaces around Workington people are asked to be aware there may be sheep and lambs grazing and that dogs should be kept on a lead around these animals. It is an offence to allow a dog to worry – killing and mauling – these animals.
Similarly, in many of the town’s parks, nature reserves and on beaches, there are ponds, streams, rivers and rock pools which are home to nesting birds. This is an important time of the year for the birds and people are asked not to disturb them, nests or eggs they see in these areas.
Swans, in particular will defend their nests, eggs and young and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, all birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law.
This advice comes following an incident where an uncontrolled dog in Harrington Nature Reserve assaulted a pair of nesting mute swans who were left distressed and upset by the attack. The incident forced them to abandon the nest, potentially putting their eggs at risk, however, they did return once it was safe. The eggs have now hatched and the reserve is now home to cygnets for the first time in four years.
Susan Cammish, nature ranger with Workington Nature Partnership, said: “Your dog may be a loving, friendly pet, but if they are off the lead, they may think it is a fun game to run around with these animals. Unfortunately, it is not a game to some of these animals and they often get scared, injured or killed as a result.
“We are grateful to the majority of responsible dog walkers in our communities that love to watch the local wildlife and help us to look after it. We want you to keep your dog close by, under control on a lead, and for every person and animal to be safe, in or out of current restrictions.
“Our nature reserves are fantastic places to exercise and spend time, but please enjoy them responsibly by also picking up after your pet, using the litter bins provided, not having fires and not picking the wildflowers.”
WNP is working with Cumbria Police to address this issue and signs advising of what people can do to protect the wildlife has been put up around Harrington Nature Reserve.
PCSO Peter Nichol said: “We would urge dog owners to listen to the advice given out here.
“These green spaces and nature reserves are places for everyone. We know most dog owners are responsible – but we just want to urge all owners to please think of others and make sure their dogs are under control.”
To report any incidents of criminal behaviour please contact police on 101.