A national park authority is reminding walkers that they must keep their dogs on a short lead on access land.

Exmoor National Park Authority (NPA) says ground-nesting birds are at risk if dogs are allowed to run free. The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act stipulates that leads must be used during the nesting season. The requirement runs from 1 March to 31 July.

Paul Hawkins, Exmoor NPA recreation manager said: “The unimproved grassland and heather moor on Exmoor are the prime breeding habitats for populations of nationally rare and sensitive ground nesting birds such as snipe and curlew.

“People do not always realise that their free-roaming dogs can easily disturb ground-nesting birds which can lead to eggs not hatching or chicks being taken by predators whilst unguarded by their parents .

“We hope that dog owners will help us to protect these sensitive bird populations on Exmoor by keeping their dogs on a lead and keeping to defined tracks and paths between 1st March and 31st July”.

The restrictions of the CRoW Act do not apply to rights-of-way such as public footpaths and bridleways.

The authority has produced a Dog Walkers Welcome leaflet to encourage dog walkers to act responsibly.