Cairngorms National Park

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Spring in your step – tread lightly in the Cairngorms National Park

20th March 2012

With the clocks going forward this weekend, Spring is just around the corner. The longer days and milder weather mean people from all over Scotland will be getting out more and enjoying what the great outdoors and the Cairngorms National Park has to offer.

As part of a programme of events encouraging people to ‘tread lightly in the National Park’, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) are asking those of you with dogs, to be especially considerate of wildlife and farm animals at this time of year.

Dog owners and walkers are reminded that spring is an important time of year for ground nesting birds – and many of the forests in the National Park are home to our most iconic species, the capercaillie. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code asks people to act responsibly by keeping their dogs under close control or on a short lead in areas like moorland, woodland and forests, during the bird breeding season which may last from April through to mid August.

Spring is also an important time of year for farming. Sadly it is a time of year when, sheep and lambs can be injured and killed by attacks from uncontrolled dogs.

Fran Pothecary, Outdoor Access Officer at the CNPA, explained: “Dogs that are not under proper control can be a real concern to land managers. As well as affecting the wildlife and birds that make the Cairngorms National Park such a special place there can be all sorts of problems with dogs in areas where there are spring lambs or other young farm animals.”

Jeremy Roberts of the RSPB said: “Dogs are our best friends but in the forest they can be a real threat to wildlife. Your pet may be as good as gold at home but in the countryside with its unusual sights, sounds and smells, their more basic instincts can be stirred. Ground nesting birds can be scared away from their nests by dogs, leaving eggs to chill, young to die of cold or fall prey to other creatures.”

CNPA Board Member and local farmer, Eleanor Mackintosh, said: “Cattle in particular can be unpredictable around dogs and can react very aggressively.  If you find yourself in this situation, keep calm, let your dog go if it is on a lead and take the shortest route to safety.”

Fran Pothecary added: “Our advice is to ensure your dog is under ‘close control’ in areas where there could be vulnerable wildlife and young farm animals which means making sure that it is responsive to your commands and kept close at heel.  In some areas like National Nature Reserves you might be requested to put your dog on a short lead.”

For more information on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code go to the CNPA website www.cairngorms.co.uk or www.outdooraccess-scotland.com