We’ve probably all seen the video of London Labrador Fenton chasing deer in Richmond Park, but if you haven’t, here he is with his panicked owner hot on his heels:
Although many found the video amusing, there is a more serious issue to consider. We don’t know how Fenton’s epic deer chase ended, but with a large stampede across a public park there could have been an injury to Fenton, the deer, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. For this time of year when we are getting out with our dogs in the countryside more often, here are a few tips on controlling dogs around wildlife:
- Ensure your dog is under control; keeping them on a lead in sensitive wildlife habitats or reserves is a good idea and they should be easily called back when off lead in open countryside.
- Observe restrictions on public access at different times of year; even the presence of dogs on lead walks can cause distress to some wildlife.
- Ground nesting birds in spring and summer are especially vulnerable to disturbance and predation by dogs roaming freely; many will abandon their nests if dogs come too close on a regular basis, meaning their eggs don’t hatch or chicks will die.
- Flocks of birds on the coast and in open countryside in winter are very vulnerable to disturbance as they are busy trying to find enough food to survive the cold weather.
- Always clear up your dog’s mess; many rare plants need low nutrient soil so can be affected by excessive nutrients from fouling by dogs and it can also spread disease.
- Be wary around nesting birds like swans and geese who may attack you and your dog if you venture too close to their nest or young.
- Deer and dogs don’t mix. They may take flight but equally can turn and attack dogs causing serious injuries.
- Although not technically wildlife it’s worth mentioning that if your dog disturbs livestock such as sheep, farmers are legally allowed to shoot dogs on their land.
- Cattle can find loose dogs threatening and have been known to attack dogs and their owners. The advice if this happens is to let your dog off the lead to run away from danger and distract the cattle.
- Finally, dogs and wildlife can transmit certain parasites and disease to each other, so confirm with your vet that they are up to date on anti-parasite treatments.