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When is it safe to walk the dog in a field where birds might be nesting?

Sent in by Alison Raynor, Northumberland

Having a dog to walk is a great reason to get out into the countryside. However, dogs can potentially disturb wildlife or livestock so it is important they are kept under control. Ground nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance. They may be forced from their nests, which would leave eggs or chicks exposed. Most birds will nest between March and September so disturbing nesting birds should be less of a problem outside this period.

However, disturbance can be a problem for birds outside the breeding season too, particularly in cold weather. Birds need to conserve their energy as much as possible and the presence of a dog could distress the birds and cause them to waste valuable energy at a time when food is hard to come by. This can be significant problem for wildfowl and waders in particular because they can struggle to find areas of unfrozen water in cold weather.

We encourage responsible dog walking, and ask dog owners to keep your dog close to you, preferably on a lead and stick to designated paths in areas where wildlife or livestock could be disturbed.

Dogs are welcome at many RSPB reserves but our reserves are very varied, so there may be restrictions at certain sites to protect the wildlife there. We would recommend checking with the reserve you are planning to visit what the access arrangements are for dogs.

Natural England's Countryside Code has further information for dog walkers in the wider countryside available here http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/countrysidecode/keepdogs.aspx

Ta

Rich

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