Dogs on nature reserves

Areas with regular dog walking can see a 35% reduction in wildlife

Dogs are a beloved companion for many people, but to wildlife they are a big and scary predator. Dogs can also kill and injure livestock. For these reasons dogs should not be taken on nature reserves.

There are parts of some Trust reserves where dogs may be taken on short leads:

  • Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve. Dogs are not permitted on the beach from 1 April to 1 September
  • Snipe Dales Country Park (not Snipe Dales Nature Reserve)
  • Whisby Nature Park. Dogs can be taken off the lead around Thorpe Lake
  • Willow Tree Fen

Dogs are also permitted on sites covered by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and on public rights of way.

Where else can you walk your dog?

There are many public footpaths in Lincolnshire where you can walk dogs. Please look at the Ordnance Survey maps, available on bing.com. Public footpaths are marked with pink and green dotted lines. You will need to change the type of map from 'Road' to 'Ordnance Survey' in the drop down menu. www.bing.com/maps


Scientific research shows that dogs can disturb wildlife and damage habitats:

  • Piles of dog dirt on sensitive habitats such as meadows and heathlands can change the nutrient levels in the soil, changing the species of plants that grow.
  • Dog dirt on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is classed as a Potentially Damaging Operation.
  • They may be domesticated but dogs are predators. Grazing livestock, birds, mammals and other animals are worried by the mere presence of a dog, even a well behaved one on a lead.
  • There have been a number of serious incidents of sheep on Trust nature reserves being attacked by dogs.
  • Ground nesting birds may be forced to desert their nests if dogs are frequently in the vicinity.
  • Disturbance by dogs, and humans, can cause seals to abandon their pups.
  • Dog dirt contains a micro-organism called Toxicaria canis that can cause blindness in people who come in contact with it. Many nature reserves are used for educational purposes. Dog dirt is a significant hazard to children and adults.

The article below 'Dogs and nature conservation' reviews the scientific evidence for the impact of dog walking on wildilfe, as well as outlining examples of problems encountered with dogs at Trust managed nature reserves.
It first appeared in Lapwings magazine 144, Summer 2014.


Code of Conduct for Dog Walking

  • Please make sure you are allowed to walk a dog in the place you are visiting
  • Please keep your dog under close control at all times
  • Pick up after your dog and dispose of poo responsibly
  • Respect other visitors, especially those with children
  • Please do not allow your dog to jump up at other visitors
  • Please do not allow your dog or their lead to become entangled with other visitors
  • Please respect signs and requests from the nature reserve team

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