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People and Wildlife – Take Care of Each Other

Submitted by on June 3, 2017 – 1:00 pmOne Comment


Dogs off leads can disturb ground nesting birds


By Head Ranger Anna

“The Millennium Country Park is a total of 225Ha with many kilometres of paths running through and around it. It is free to access and it has a huge 500,000 visits each year. That’s a lot of people enjoying this beautiful place which is owned and managed by the charity, the Forest of Marston Vale Trust.

The 500,000 visits are made up of many different people, enjoying many different activities, all of which are really important to them. This could be riding a bike, walking the dog, horse riding, bird watching, photography…to name a few examples. There’s also a huge range of native wildlife which makes its home within the relative safety of the Park. Birds, mammals, invertebrates and amphibians live here, trying to co-exist with their human neighbours. For all of these various activities to be enjoyed fully, without impacting negatively on others or unduly disturbing wildlife, everyone has to be considerate. This could be passing that keen birdwatcher nice and quietly, putting your dog on a lead while the horses cross, or calling out politely as you cycle past the group of walkers. A little bit of consideration goes a long way.

Thankfully we don’t get too many complaints although when we do, many (not all) involve dogs. The Park is hugely popular for dog walking and we extend a warm welcome to the large number of dog walkers who visit considerately and responsibly. They clean up after their dog and dispose of the waste appropriately and keep their dog under close control so it doesn’t disturb other visitors or wildlife.

As with all user groups, there is a proportion of people that are not responsible. From experience, there seems to be a bigger issue with dog control than there is fouling. It is pretty black and white that everyone should clear up after their dog and bin it responsibly. We continue to try and catch and educate those who don’t.

Dog control seems to be a little more open to interpretation. Two recent examples of dogs that were certainly not under control: I recently had to speak to a dog owner that didn’t seem to understand the problem with her dog running through a hedge and chasing after more than 100 birds, who’d previously been quietly feeding out on the grassland. Secondly, a dog owner on social media found it hilarious that they had a ‘meeting point’ for their dog. Basically, they let their dog off the lead to run wherever it wants and then ‘meet up’ with it later.

Dogs running off the lead, far ahead, and often out of the sight of owners can cause huge disturbance to wildlife all year round, particularly through spring and summer. I regularly see dogs running through hedges and dense vegetation which could so easily cause wildlife disturbance, with ground nesting birds suffering the most. We have also had off lead dogs charging through the middle of school visits and even attempting to steal food from a family’s picnic!

It is possible for a dog to be fully exercised while being kept close to the owner and under control. It doesn’t matter if ‘he always comes back’. You don’t know what havoc may be created while he is gone. It is also vital if you are to ensure your dog remains safe and doesn’t get lost.

Everyone that owns a dog has presumably chosen to, so it is their responsibility to train it and look after it. Golden rules for walking your dog in the Millennium Country Park.

Clean up after your dog – even if that means carrying the dog bag for a while before you get to a bin. We already spend in excess of £2k managing the dog bins we have which are distributed throughout the Park.

  1. Don’t let your dog run up to other people. It can be very intimidating for others, even if they like dogs. It doesn’t matter if ‘he is really friendly’ – it is not acceptable behaviour.
  2. Keep your dog under control and within sight. This protects our precious wildlife which is equally important within the Park, as us.

The Millennium County Park is a place created for both people and wildlife. Visited and used considerately, there is space for all visitors, whether they be two legged, four legged or on wheels, to enjoy the outdoors and have the opportunity to get close to the wonderful, varied wildlife that we have the privilege of living alongside.”

To contact Anna, drop her an email.












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One Comment »

  • Heather says:

    I completely agree with this article. We’ve stopped cycling our bikes around the park because of the number of dog owners who don’t have their dog under control & don’t seem to understand that the dog and the cyclist could both get badly hurt if we collide.

    Luckily my kids are gradually growing out of the phobia and fear of dogs. We’ve had to teach them which dogs to be concerned about when running free and which ones are OK. But being told by an owner “it’s a friendly dog”, “it’s just a youngster who’s a bit playful”, “don’t worry he wouldn’t bite you” doesn’t really cut it when you have a child who is paralysed by fear because of their dog off the lead.

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