A video showing a dog off the lead disturbing sea birds in a protected area at Pegwell Bay has prompted wildlife experts to appeal to dog owners to keep their pets under control.
The 60-second clip was taken by a wildlife watcher as he was observing coastal birds. It shows the dog off the lead chasing birds on the mudflats, a restricted part of the bay which is a designated dog control area to protect the feeding grounds for birds.
Owners risk a £100 fine for breaching the public space protection order by letting their dogs off the lead in the zone, a step that has been taken by the local authority to protect wildlife in the area.
The wildlife watcher who captured the video said: “The poor birds have little chance to rest and feed if they are being chased by dogs off the lead. Pegwell Bay is part of the nature reserve and is a vital feeding ground for migrating birds. By all means, take your dog for a walk but keep it under control on a lead.”
Kent Wildlife Trust manages Sandwich and Pegwell Bay on behalf of multiple landowners and has been working with Birdwise East Kent, Thanet District Council enforcement officers and Kent Police’s Rural Task Force in a bid to combat ongoing disturbance of wildlife on the protected site.
Kent Wildlife Trust’s Protected Area Warden, Nina Jones said: “We are working hard to protect the wildlife on this site but continued disturbance is an ongoing problem and may be the cause of a major decline in some migratory bird species.
“This area should be their haven, but we are seeing more and more reports of dogs chasing vulnerable birds that need to rest and feed before long migratory journeys to wintering or breeding grounds.
“Statistics show that dog ownership spiked during the pandemic and it is only natural that people want somewhere nice to walk their pet, but all too many owners simply ignore the signage and just do not just understand the damage their pet is doing.
“A dog frolicking in the water with birds, to some, looks harmless but it causes a huge amount of stress on those birds who simply will not return to the area. So, I would ask all dog walkers in the area to please, respect the dog control area and keep your pet on a lead.”
The video was shared online by Wildlife presenter Richard Taylor-Jones who said: “Every time birds are disturbed by dogs; they use energy they would not otherwise do so. So not only does it mean the birds are stressed and scared, but they must also find more food to get through the day.
“At this time of year, some of these birds have just returned from the arctic circle, traveling thousands of miles, and are exhausted. This disturbance could be the difference between making it and not.
“This type of disturbance is simply all too common at Pegwell Bay, a site of European Site of Special Conservation. It’s time to start enforcing the law and fining the people that are breaking it.”
Tips for coastal dog walkers:
- Give birds that are feeding or resting plenty of space.
- Control your animal so that it does not disturb or scare wild birds.
- Keep all dogs under control at all times.
- Never allow or encourage dogs to chase birds.
- Keep noise levels low around sea birds.