Dog owners are being reminded that dogs must be kept on their leads on the Ayres National Nature Reserve (NNR) between 1 April and the 31 July. This is to ensure that local wildlife is not disturbed during the bird nesting season.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, said:
‘The Ayres National Nature Reserve attracts a variety of different habitats and we must ensure that they remain protected. Our UNESCO Biosphere status celebrates our ability to live alongside nature, and encourages us to take care of our wildlife. The Ayres NNR is naturally a popular spot for dog walkers but also an important refuge for ground nesting birds during this season and we ask that dog walkers and visitors are mindful of that during this period.'
David Wright, Biodiversity Warden for DEFA, added:
‘Birds such as wader and tern lay their eggs in nests on the ground during this time, and when chicks hatch, they move away from their nests and wander freely under the watchful eye of their parents. It can take up to five weeks before these chicks are able to fly and during this time they are extremely vulnerable.’
Curlew, lapwing, oystercatcher, ringed plover, little tern, Arctic tern, skylark and meadow pipit all lay their eggs on the ground at the Ayres NNR.
The restrictions to dog walkers apply to the heathland and the beach and enable ground nesting birds to settle in their breeding areas and raise their chicks.
During this period, visitors to the reserve are asked to stay on the main paths and move away if birds show signs of agitation or distress. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £2,500.
With Spring now here, dog owners are also being asked to be cautious near farmland and the Government’s hill lands to reduce the risk of causing injury or death to pregnant ewes and ewes with lambs.
The Minister for DEFA said:
‘There have also been instances in the past, particularly around this time of year of dogs causing serious injury or death to ewes and lambs. It’s important that we respect the Island’s farmers and remain cautious of where dogs are walked to ensure minimal disturbance to livestock.’
Farmers have the right to take action to protect their livestock in the event of dogs straying, and legal action can be taken against people who do not control their dogs. Prosecutions can follow with severe penalties being imposed together with compensation claims.