Sheep are Lake District farmers' livelihood

Sheep are Lake District farmers' livelihood

Walkers are being warned to keep their dogs under control after an attack where a lamb was killed and three others seriously wounded.

The incident in south Cumbria came after a harsh and prolonged winter left many sheep and lambs in the Lake District in a weaker condition.

Farmers warned they will shoot dogs threatening their sheep, as a last resort.

Most dog owners take care to keep their dogs under control, the Lake District National Park Authority said, but a thoughtless minority can cause havoc.

Lake District national park ranger, Val Edmondson said: “This is a very sensitive and important time. A dog chasing lambing sheep can cause them to abort and, in the worst cases, kill the ewe and her unborn lambs.

“Sheep are the Lake District farmers’ livelihood and dogs can be a real problem to them, particularly when they are so vulnerable.”

Keswick farmer Tom Birkett said sheep had come through the worst winter for 60 years and were in a weaker condition as a result.

“I would appeal to dog owners to keep their pets under control at this particularly sensitive time,” he added.

Farmers have reported some sickening cases over the years and ultimately they may have to shoot out of control pets, added Ms Edmondson.

She said: “This is obviously a last resort, but sometimes they have no other choice.

“Lambing time coincides with ground-nesting birds producing their offspring, which are also at great risk from dogs.

“Species such as curlew, lapwing, snipe and grouse have nests disturbed and their chicks scattered. And once away from the nest, their chances of survival plummet.

“We’ve seen a worrying decline in numbers and must do all we can to protect them.”

By law, dogs must be controlled so that they do not scare or disturb livestock or wildlife.

On open access land they have to be kept on short leads from 1 March to 31 July – and kept under close control all year round when near stock.

More advice for walkers with dogs is on the Lake District National Park Authority website and the Natural England access website.

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