TWO WEEKS on from the devastating fire that destroyed a part of the Ilkley Moor over the Easter weekend, the resident birds are still facing danger.

Friends of Ilkley Moor member and concerned resident Nick Hunt said birds and mammals are still being disturbed by dogs being let loose to roam the moor against local bye-laws.

He said: “Whilst this picture depicts a grouse, we should not forget that many other birds and animals will have been displaced, or worse, by the fire. Ground nesting birds will have been particularly vulnerable in this regard. In the light of this manmade tragedy (the fire) it is particularly distressing to observe the continued and deliberate flouting of the laws governing the use of the moor by dog walkers.

"It is a requirement that all dogs must be on a lead at all times anywhere on the moor between 1st March and 31st July, every year. There are large yellow signs at entry points to the moor and a leafleting campaign was active in 2018 and is ongoing.

"This is not a new requirement. When this requirement is drawn to the attention of non-compliant dog walkers, both commercial and individual members of the public, a significant number respond that they are aware of the requirement but choose not obey.

"The birds and animals that survived the fire will be seeking new homes and feeding territories, they should not have to run the gauntlet of dogs illegally being exercised off lead during the crucial nesting season.

"The response of one dog walker when rejecting the request to put her dog on a lead was 'I don’t see any birds'. What she was reporting was that because she and other dog walkers don’t keep their dogs on a lead there are no birds to disturb so she can continue to let her dog roam free! One person, when asked to put their dog on a lead, said they would do so when they got higher up on the moor. When politely asked to put it on a lead immediately, they had to return to their locked car to get the lead!

"One resident who’s house abuts the moor, merely opens their gate and encourages their dog to roam free many hundreds of metres from them, chasing birds and hares. The behaviour reported above is destructive and illegal in a normal nesting season.

"Following the fire, the need to protect the remaining habitat is even more urgent. It is time that all dog walkers, private and commercial, followed the example of those who obey the rules. I would urge the responsible public to encourage everyone to put their dogs on a lead.

"Importantly, those who engage commercial dog walkers should ensure they keep all dogs on leads. Many professional dog walkers use the moor. Some regularly flout the sign posted requirements.

"We are privileged to share this beautiful, natural environment with a rich array of wildlife. With this privilege comes responsibility. It is up to us all to protect, maintain and enhance this deceptively fragile moorland for current and future generations."