Dog owners are reminded to avoid allowing pets off leads on or near farmland, hill land and the Ayres National Nature Reserve.
This is a year-round concern, but is of particular importance during the lambing months of March to June and bird nesting periods, particularly April to July, says the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA).
David Cretney MLC, Member of DEFA responsible for Forestry, Amenity and Lands, said: ‘In recent years we have experienced serious and well-publicised incidents of sheep worrying.
‘Any dog, regardless of breed, size or temperament, is capable of causing death or serious injury to pregnant ewes and ewes with lambs.
‘Footpaths and other permitted access can obviously bring walkers and dogs in close proximity to sheep. Unleashed dogs have chased and attacked sheep in recent years after they have escaped from their owners while out walking.’
Mr Cretney continued: ‘In sensitive habitats, such as the uplands and the Ayres National Nature Reserve, unleashed dogs can disturb ground-nesting birds, leading to nests failing.
‘While the Department actively encourages the public to visit our beautiful countryside, and the majority of people are sensible, the irresponsible few pose an extra risk to wildlife.
‘By being a responsible a dog owner you are helping to ensure that our wildlife can be enjoyed by future generations.’
The Department is also concerned by an upsurge in unauthorised access by vehicles to forest and upland areas.
It is an offence to drive or ride a vehicle on the Department’s land without permission.
Vehicles can damage sensitive habitats and infrastructure and can pose a safety risk to walkers, horse riders and cyclists.
DEFA is warning that it may prosecute offenders under the Road Traffic Act 1985 and Forestry (General) Byelaws.
Mr Cretney said: ‘The Department works closely with motor clubs to make their competitive events, often held on the Departments land, sustainable. Irresponsible and illegal usage could jeopardise the future use of the estate for events. Clubs are backing the Department in trying to eradicate the problem and will consider penalising members who are found to be involved in such activity.’
Members of the public who see vehicles using Department land unlawfully should contact the Police, DEFA on +44 1624 695701 or the Forestry Warden on +44 7624 490714.