An impassioned plea has been made for the public to keep better control of their dogs while out walking on Holkham’s nature reserve.
Writing in the Holkham Gazette newsletter, distributed free to tenants and businesses on the estate, reserve manager Sarah Henderson said “poorly controlled dogs have become a nuisance not just for wildlife but also for other dogs and visitors”.
She said this was having a bad effect on birds, among other animals.
She said: “Being disturbed, or even chased by dogs and continually having to move away from their feeding areas, is a waste of their precious energy and also cuts down on the time they have to feed.
“The alarming effect that dogs can have on wildlife can be devastating. Ground nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance and predation. Whilst efforts are made to make people aware of where birds such as little, ringed plover and oystercatcher are nesting by putting up cordons and signs, it is very easy for an unrestrained and poorly-controlled dog to enter a cordoned enclosure and disturb the birds.
“Many birds protect chicks by using distraction techniques but sometimes whilst they are doing this another predator such as a gull or kestrel sneaks in and takes the young.”
Ms Henderson said that she had been sent a photograph of a dog “viciously” attacking a muntjac deer ont he grazing marshes at Burnham Overy.
“She said: This is a surprisingly common event but it is seldom caught on camera. The pictures show what a dog can get up to when it is not kept on a lead or under close control.”
Ms Henderson said that Holkham’s social media comments who had viewed this picture showed that dog walkers themselves who enjoy the estate and love the wildlife found within it got extremely annoyed by irresponsible dog walkers.
Another problem of dogs roaming loose was that they ran the risk of getting lost.
She said: “This happens frequently and whilst an owner might have to add an extra couple of hours to their walk whilst they look for their dog, we have had instances where the dog has been missing for a week and an anxious owner has to visit once or twice a day to look for it.
“You can imagine what impact a dog might have on the wildlife of the reserve if it is having to fend for itself.”