Sheep and lambs are making a welcome return to the Hills this week and we're urging dog walkers to take extra care when visiting.
This time last year, a lamb and ewe were killed by dogs on one single weekend on the Hills and Commons. There are many more livestock worrying incidents, which including chasing, that go unreported to the Trust.
Beck Baker, Community and Conservation Officer, said ‘Sadly, dogs chasing and attacking sheep is a common occurrence on the Malvern Hills and Commons.’
‘We’d like to remind dog walkers that any dog, big or small, docile or aggressive, has the potential to chase or kill livestock so all dogs should be kept on a lead near grazing cattle and sheep. The simple solution of putting a dog on a lead will help keep sheep and lambs safe.’
It is a criminal offence for a dog to worry livestock and incidents may be reported to the police. This may result a dog being destroyed and fines for the dog owner.
Beck added 'We try and help dog owners by providing information on the locations of the livestock, raising awareness and offering subsidised dog training but the simplest thing to do is for dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead.'
To help dog walkers avoid the livestock or prepare to encounter livestock, the Malvern Hills Trust provides a weekly Stockwatch update with the locations of sheep and cattle within temporary electric fencing on the Hills and Commons.
The public can view this on the Malvern Hills Trust website or sign up to receive weekly email alerts with the information. Stockwatch is also included each week in the Malvern Gazette.
To help dog owners better understand their dogs and train their animals to ignore livestock, the Malvern Hills Trust are subsidising Sheep Safe dog training courses. The course, with dog behaviourist Sue Harper, starts on 12th May. Contact Sue by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to book a place.
It should be noted that the Malvern Hills and Commons are registered common land so dog walkers should expect to encounter livestock anywhere at any time.
Livestock are an essential part of the management of the Malvern Hills and Commons. The cattle and sheep eat the bramble, scrub and young trees and this maintains the open grassland habitat. This keeps the landscape special and benefits the geology, archaeology, wildlife, and the access and views for visitors.