KEEN eyed rangers are warning dog owners to keep their pets on short leads this spring to protect protect wildlife and livestock on Marsden Moor.

The alert comes after moorland fires over the last few years damaged important bird habitat, making this spring a particularly crucial time for wildlife.

From March 1 until July 31, dogs must be kept on a short lead (up to 2m) to avoid disturbing the rare birds including lapwing, curlew and golden plover.

A major fire on Marsden Moor in April last year (Picture: National Trust Images/VictoriaHolland)

A major fire on Marsden Moor in April last year (Picture: National Trust Images/VictoriaHolland)

A baby curlew (Picture: Lough Neagh Landscape)

A baby curlew (Picture: Lough Neagh Landscape)

These breeds build their nests deep in the grasses on Marsden Moor, often hidden from sight, but dogs can sometimes smell them.

Even dogs that don’t chase birds can still cause them distress, inadvertently disturbing nests and causing the animals to abandon their eggs.

It is also a crucial time for farmers, as sheep and cows go back on the moors with their young.

Pregnant ewes are also particularly vulnerable.

If they are disturbed, they may miscarry their lambs.

Countryside manager for the National Trust in West Yorkshire, Rosie Holdsworth, said: “Marsden Moor is a great place to bring your dog for a walk, with miles of footpaths to explore.

"However, it’s really important to keep dogs on a short lead and stick to the paths, to give your rare breeding birds the best chance.

“Birds may abandon their nests if a dog comes close, even if that dog doesn’t harm or chase the bird.”

She added: “Farmers that graze their livestock on the moors also appreciate dogs being on leads.

"Many sheep are pregnant or have young lambs. It’s really distressing for the animals when they’re chased by dogs.

"Dogs can frighten sheep and cause miscarriages.

“Over the past decades, we’ve worked really hard to give nature the best chance on the moors by restoring plant biodiversity.

"Dog owners can really play their part and help us with our efforts to look after our wildlife.”