From March to July, the New Forest is one of the most important areas in Europe for breeding Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler. These species primarily nest in the heather on hilltops or in the fringes of bogs in the valleys. By sticking to the well-defined main paths, walkers, horse-riders and cyclists can avoid causing harm to these threatened species.
This year, the rangers have an addition to the team, with Ranger Dog Erin recruited to help the rangers lead by example. The working Cocker Spaniel belongs to ranger Julian, who is part of the small team looking after ten sites across the Forest from a base at Lymington Keyhaven Nature Reserve.
Engaging visitors is all part of our day to day work, and we find that when we’re talking to dog owners it really helps to have Erin with us when we are advising others about the ground nesting birds.
The New Forest is a fantastic place to walk dogs, but please follow a few simple steps to help preserve the rare bird species and conserve this fragile landscape:
- On heathland areas, please keep dogs close to heel, or on leads if you can not rely on their obedience.
- Grassy areas near main paths are safe places to let your dog off its lead but have a stick, toy or treat near to hand to encourage your dog to stay near, rather the running off into the undergrowth, disturbing wildlife.
- Keep your dog on a lead when near livestock. Move away quickly and quietly and, if possible, walk around the animals. Let go of the lead if threatened - the livestock will follow your dog instead of you.
- Please pick up after your dog at all times. Most car parks don't have bins, so maybe get a special bag to put the poo in while on your walk, before you dispose of it at home in your household waste. Dog poo carries harmful diseases that can affect livestock as well as humans. It is acidic and can change the pH of the soil, so abandoned dog mess can damage the fragile habitats of the New Forest.