Exmoor National Park Rangers are asking people to be mindful of ground-nesting birds, baby deer and other wildlife that may have been caught out by the sudden return of visitors to the moors, following the easing of Government restrictions.
Many ground-nesting birds will have nested in spring while crowds were away, making them particularly vulnerable to disturbance now visitors, and particularly dogs, have returned.
Ranger Charlotte Wray, who also volunteers as a BTO bird surveyor, said: “It’s great to see people enjoying the outdoors once again. But with most businesses still shut and the need to social distance, we’re seeing a lot more people heading to open moorland and quieter parts of the National Park, where previously nature has been free to carry on relatively undisturbed.
“Please tread carefully and be mindful that wildlife may not have had time to adjust to the sudden influx of visitors and turn up in some unusual places, such as on or near paths. If lucky your thoughtfulness may be rewarded by some pretty amazing natural encounters.
“Ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable and known to abandon their nests if they feel threatened by predators. This includes your family dog, who in following its instincts can innocently ruin these rare birds’ chance to breed successfully.”
How to have great wildlife experience:
- Time it right. Dawn and dusk are peak activity times for many animals, especially during the hotter summer months.
- Keep a respectful distance. If a bird flies away, circles, makes repeated alarm calls or feigns injury, move away immediately. If an animal lingers on in one location, ask yourself why – it may have young nearby and feel extremely stressed by your continued presence. The same applies to livestock with young.
- Stay on the paths, particularly around habitats often used by birds and other animals for nesting or shelter, such as dense heather, riverbanks or wetlands.
- Take the lead. Curious dogs can scare ground-nesting birds and cause them to abandon their nests. By law they must be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July on open access land. Dogs should be under close control at all times near livestock.
- Leave the BBQ at home. Moorland fires can be particularly devastating to wildlife in breeding season, so leave the BBQ at home and bring a picnic instead.
- Take action for nature. Help us better target conservation efforts by letting us know what you see and hear while out on Exmoor at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/wild-watch.