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Dog owners are being warned to obey signs to protect wildlife amid concerns not everyone is following the rules. Churchtown Farm, near Saltash, has urged people to keep their dogs on leads due to skylarks nesting, but pooches have been spotted roaming free.

Stuart Mathieson, East Cornwall reserves officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT), said there is a lot of “non-compliance” and “worst case scenario is that the chicks are killed.” Peter Kent, East Cornwall reserves manager at CWT has said that any disturbance from dogs can “lead to adults abandoning a nest”.

One dog owner said although he’d seen the signs about skylarks, he was choosing to ignore them and his two large dogs were running free. Skylarks are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and a ‘Red List’ species according to RSPB due to “recent and dramatic population declines” in the UK.

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Reserve officer Stuart is a dog owner himself, but “always keeps his own dog on a lead in the area south of the railway at Churchtown Farm.” This is where the signs are displayed and skylarks are nesting.

He said: “Help protect our Skylarks by keeping dogs on leads below the railway line from March to August. Dogs can cause disturbance to ground nesting birds even if they do not attack a bird, chick or the nest. The presence of a dog close to a bird, nest or fledgling can cause an adult bird to abandon a nest site.

Some dog walkers are ignoring signs put in place to protect nesting skylarks(Image: Katie Oborn)

“There are nine signs in the area south of the railway requesting that dogs be kept on leads during nesting season, but there is a lot of non-compliance. If your dog is off a lead it can sniff out a skylark’s nest and the worst case scenario is that the chicks are killed, but even low level disturbance can affect the nesting birds.

“It’s a historical thing, people like to walk their dogs in this area and there is an area at the top to the north of the railway where dogs can be off of leads. It’s the bottom area, south of the railway, where the skylarks are nesting and it’s the small changes that make a big difference to their survival.”

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