A deer has been killed at Smardale Nature Reserve, prompting Cumbria Wildlife Trust to remind dog owners to keep their pets on leads.
The injuries the roe deer suffered suggest it was attacked by a dog.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust, which owns the nature reserve, said it was shocked by the incident and urged all dog owners to ensure that dogs are kept under close control, to prevent such attacks on wildlife.
Andrew Walter, reserves officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “We received several calls from concerned members of the public on Saturday March 6 around 2pm, reporting that there was an injured deer on our nature reserve.
“The injuries suggest that it was attacked by a dog. The wounds were serious and despite alerting the RSPCA, the deer didn’t survive.
“We welcome dog walkers on our nature reserves, as the vast majority of them are responsible, but as all dogs descend from the wolf they pose a real threat to wildlife, as this recent incident vividly shows.
“Wildlife naturally fear domestic dogs, so even without physical chasing or attacks occurring, the regular presence of dogs on nature reserves will reduce numbers of wild animals.
“These sites are havens for wildlife. Therefore, we strongly urge all dog owners to be responsible: dogs must be kept on a lead or under close control at all times.
“Dogs should be kept to the designated routes and not allowed to roam off them.
“This is especially important at this time of year as animals are settling down to mate, nest or give birth. It’s also lambing time for many farms in the area, so extra vigilance is needed wherever you are in the countryside.
“We want all visitors to enjoy Smardale and our other nature reserves, but we ask everyone to please treat these sensitive areas with respect.
“Dog owners, we’d also like remind you not to leave dog mess on nature reserves – please take your poo bags home with you.”
Cumbria Wildlife Trust allows dogs to be walked on most of its nature reserves, as long as they are kept on a lead (or under close control) at all times, so that they don’t disturb wildlife or livestock.
However, in order to protect ground nesting birds from disturbance, dogs are not permitted at South Walney Nature Reserve at any time.
Temporary or seasonal restrictions may be in place at other nature reserves during the bird nesting season – March to August – for example at Foulney Island Nature Reserve.