Dartmoor National Park orders dogs to be kept on short leads

Dartmouth National Park bosses said dogs could 'distress' nesting birds and other animals
Dartmouth National Park bosses said dogs could 'distress' nesting birds and other animals - PETER TROTT/MOMENT OPEN

Dog-owners must keep their pets on short leads when walking them in Dartmoor National Park, park rangers have said.

The ruling, which has now come into force, is intended to stop dogs from frightening wildlife on the vast moorland in Devon.

It will last until July 31 as the Dartmoor National Park Authority looks to protect nesting birds and grazing livestock.

Park bosses said dogs could “distress” nesting birds and other animals, in shades of Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Hound of the Baskervilles, in which a fearsome hound runs loose on the moor.

The park authority issued a reminder of the ruling, which has come into force each year since 2000, following a weekend of community engagement.

Ella Briens, deputy head ranger, said: “The weekend of engagement was an important way for us to highlight the breeding season and explain that it’s a particularly vulnerable time for Dartmoor’s wildlife.

“We found most people were incredibly positive but were surprised to find some people didn’t think the rules applied to them.”

Birds like the meadow pipit and skylark are now building nests on the ground to incubate their eggs, the park authority said, while lambs, foals and calves are taking their first steps.

Dog owners are also advised to pick up waste and stick to the paths.

Protecting birdlife

A statement on the authority’s website said: “Keeping your dog on a lead helps protect our birds which nest on the ground, such as skylarks, meadow pipits and curlews.

“A loose dog can easily cause them to abandon their nests, eggs and chicks – a real tragedy for our wonderful wildlife.”

The park, which covers an area of 954 square kilometres, was the setting for Sir Arthur’s 1901 book following Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

Parts of Dartmoor have been used as military firing ranges for more than 200 years although the public is granted extensive land access rights.

Dartmoor National Park Authority has 22 members which are drawn from Devon County Council, local district councils and government.

The engagement weekend, in which rangers handed out treats, leads and poo bags to dog walkers, was organised by the park authority alongside the National Trust and Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society.

Farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured or killed by loose and uncontrolled dogs in 2023, up from £1.8 million the previous year, according to NFU Mutual, an insurance company.