Our flock of Hebridean sheep at Pegsdon Hills nature reserve were chased yesterday afternoon by a dog for more than 20 minutes. Very sadly one of the sheep being chased fell down a steep gully, broke its neck and died as a consequence; a further two suffered bites and mauling on their back legs and are now severely traumatised - as are the rest of the flock. The dog concerned was a cockerpoo which was off lead and lacking any form of control by its owners; people at the scene who challenged the owners were met with a volley of abuse.
Sadly this is the fourth attack this year at the same site - last year there were only four dog attack incidents here all year - so clearly dog owners need firmly reminding that any dog on any nature reserve where there is livestock present MUST have their dogs on leads at all times. Pegsdon Hills requires dogs on lead all year round as there are frequently sheep grazing the slopes - there is recent new signage stating this fact so the public should be fully aware and have no excuse to ignore these signs.
Reserves officer Rich Knock had to deal with the aftermath: "I received a phone call from people witnessing the cockerpoo chasing the sheep, who had told the owners to get their dog under control and on lead, only to be be met with abuse. Very sadly by the time I arrived - 20 minutes after the call, one sheep had broken its neck in a fall and trying to check the flock proved very difficult at they were all so badly traumatised; at least two have bad mauling on their hind quarters and may not survive and at present there are possibly another two missing. It's getting really serious as it seems more and more people are walking here with dogs off lead.
"We have a wonderful group of volunteer sheep checkers who help look after the flock; they are now understandably becoming wary and nervous about continuing doing this work as they receive such frequent abuse when, entirely legitimately, requesting of any owners whose dogs are running free to put them on a lead."
The warning is especially vital as lambing season approaches: many sheep are now already in lamb and if chased pregnant ewes would abort; even with a fence in between, a dog worrying the sheep can be enough to make this happen. The Pegsdon attack would have inevitably been far worse - the already pregnant ewes were luckily off site at the weekend being scanned - had they all been there the outcome would have proved far worse.