FARMERS are pleading with dog owners to keep them on a lead when walking near sheep in the North York Moors National Park after sheep were killed.
Robin Mackley, whose family have been farming Levisham Common for nearly 300 years, said a Swaledale ewe in lamb had its throat ripped in the latest incident. In recent years he has lost more than 50 sheep and lambs as a result of dog owners allowing their animals to run over the moors.
He has a flock of 200 on the moors in winter but the number doubles in summer and Mr Mackley said he and other sheep farmers were worried that with the improved weather and the tourist season ahead, coupled with the lambing season approaching, more sheep could be killed.
The culprits, he said, were people taking their dogs onto the moors for exercise. “But they don’t realise just how their dogs can turn to become killers when they get among sheep,” said Mr Mackley.
With each ewe worth at least £100 – plus the loss of their lambs – the cost to farmers is high, he said.
Mr Mackley said: “People will put their dogs on a lead for a few hundred yards but when they get onto the moors they just let them loose without realising the damage they can do to the sheep. Some people think it is hilarious to see their dogs chasing the sheep. Signs have been put up warning dog owners but we have seen them taken down.
“Our plea to the public, with the lambing time and the holiday season not far away, is to keep their dogs on a lead.”
A senior ranger for the national park, David Smith, said: “It is vital to keep dogs on leads near livestock on the moors, especially as we shall soon be into the lambing and ground nest bird season.
“We have some suggested walks on our website for dog owners that largely avoid livestock and sensitive moorland areas.”