Killers

Yesterday morning, two dogs described as brown greyhound types caught and killed a tabby and white cat in the ditch that runs along between Lambrok Meadow and the blackthorn tunnel. If your dog is a hunter with a highly developed prey drive, please, please don’t let it run off-lead in our nature reserve, to hunt and kill our wildlife and the neighbourhood’s cats.

We have recently received reports of squirrels killed by a dog and of dogs hunting our water voles, a protected species, in the Lambrok’s tributary stream. Letting your dog even disturb, never mind kill, a water vole is an offence that can be punished with a £5,000 fine.

Water vole photographed in the park by Simon Knight. The wooden bridge over the tributary stream.
Header image: the blackthorn tunnel.

There are rare water shrews in the Lambrok’s tributary as well as common and pygmy shrews in the set-asides, all of them fully protected under the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act. There are two well established rabbit warrens, one at either end of Sleepers Field, their occupants trying to live peaceful lives under the brambles despite the many feet, human and canine, walking by. The reserve is home to squirrels, mice and voles of several species, hedgehogs and brown rats.

We have predators to balance things out: weasels and stoats as well as sparrowhawks, kestrels and buzzards; otters and foxes pass through and a grey heron visits regularly to hunt field voles in Village Green. Your dogs have no place in this ecosystem; they are merely visitors and like all visitors to the wild places they should leave nothing behind and take nothing with them. Please, pick up after your dogs and if you think they might hurt or kill the wildlife, leash them.

Grey heron photographed in the reserve by Cheryl Cronnie; fox (public domain).

Yes, Trowbridge has long promised us more open green space where dogs can be safely exercised off lead. But nothing has come of these promises so Southwick’s dog walkers and its nature reserve must come to an accommodation and rub along together without the need to publish a regular casualty list.

A park user kindly took the cat’s body to a local vet to be scanned for a microchip but if you think this might be your cat, we do have a photograph. Email us at friendsofscp@outlook.com.

15 thoughts on “

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  1. This is what happens when the lot of people do not realise that it is a nature reserve there should be more signs placed in the park and the rules of dogs must be kept on leads in a Nature Reserve

    1. The park belongs to the council and they could do whatever they want with it: sell it for development or turn it into a football field. It is protected not just by its status as a Local Nature Reserve but also by the affection, even passion, of the people who use it regularly. We don’t want to lose the support of the local population by setting rules that they don’t like and probably won’t follow anyway.

      The signs are on their way, I promise.

  2. There aren’t enough places for people to walk their dogs. As far as I remember, the Trowbridge Bat Mitigation Strategy (..is that right?) recommended the development of a SANG (a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) to take the footfall pressure off the nature reserves. Why hasn’t this been done?

    1. Just for info the land known as the Southwick Country Park was gifted to Wiltshire Council and is protected by a restrictive covenant stating that it must be retained by them and kept solely for the use and enjoyment of the general public. The covenant is designed to stop the Council from putting houses on it. It also means that any proposed changes to the park need to be put to public consultation first

  3. Please, PLEASE stop posting anonymously. It is our policy not to publish anonymous posts. I have already used A.Reader today for the first person who posted without leaving a name and I have just put the second one in the pending box. Whoever you are, please repost using a name; you have made a valid point and I would like to respond to it.

  4. I think it may have been me. My name is Georgia.Sorry I normally post via Facebook rather than the blog. I can’t remember my exact words other than it really is again the minority that spoil for majority.most dog walkers are helpful and considerate and report things to you as and when. Not all of us let our dogs do things like this. And I would be very very sad if I wasn’t allowed to walk my dog offlead in the park.

    1. Thank you Georgia. I know it sounds silly but if we get onto a contentious subject, we quickly get anonymous trolls. I will copy your previous post:
      “Whilst this is disappointing and very sad to read again it is the minority that spoil it for everyone else. Please don’t make the reserve lead walking only you will exclude so many people.”

      1. I agree that we don’t want to lose the support of local people. That would be terrible.

        The reserve is a local resource; families picnic here, children play in the woods, couples look for dark corners under the trees. But we want it to be a place of biodiversity, where the wildlife is safe, too. The UK has one of the most depleted ecosystems in the world and we MUST learn to share – because if we don’t we are headed into a disaster. All we are asking is if your dog goes hunting up the tributary stream where there are precious, protected species, please put him on a lead until you are out in the open fields again.

      2. I agree with not letting your dog get into these situations and stopping before or as soon as possible. Agree dogs are not part of our eco system but neither are
        domestic cats. While I think its devastating that someone has lost a beloved pet in this way do cats not cause more damage in the park and to our ecosystem than dogs? Dogs and their owners get the brunt of the complaints lately.

        1. Yes, cats are damaging to our ecosystem too but we don’t see many in the park probably because of the dogs. Perhaps this poor cat was too young and inexperienced to understand the danger.

        2. You are correct, cats are not a natural species of the reserve. But, there are hardly any cats that spend time in the reserve. And the cats that do come into the reserve certainly do not do more damage than dogs.
          The fact is that when a dog is let off the lead and runs out of sight of the their owner, there could be dog mess left behind and there will be no control over what the dog chases. This is not acceptable behaviour for a Nature Reserve and it also goes against the Countryside Code.
          Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs. I have friends and family that that walk their dogs in the reserve but they are all kept under control and in sight. Exactly how it should be.
          This cat could have easily been a hare or a deer or a water vole. Or, God forbid, what if a child was walking around carrying a cuddly toy? Could that dog owner guarantee that the dog wouldn’t have attacked the toy and accidentally injured the child?
          I know that there are many responsible dog owners that use the park, but there is also dog mess on the ground in most of the fields and often in the wooded areas. So it seems like it is more than a minority letting the rest down.

  5. Sadly there appear to be a group of dog owners who are not capable of controlling their dog. I suspect that they are not susceptible to reasoned argument to change their behaviour. Also sadly, I believe that the dog is badly let down because it is probably not sure of its place in the community.
    My wife and I had a Jack Russell whom we loved dearly, but when she died we decided that it would not be fair to an animal to fit in with our way of life.
    I understand that abandoned pets are on the increase. A newspaper article reports that “The RSPCA has seen reports of abandoned pets increase by 23% in the first half of this year, when compared to last year.” Probably a lot of people found solace in the lockdown by getting a dog, but now the cost of keeping a pet must be growing rapidly and making it difficult for many to afford. The dog then becomes a victim. They should be treated with more respect, provided with adequate training at the beginning or their life and kept under control at all times..

  6. Agree David. Sadly alot of people take on a dog and don’t put in the time or take on a breed they are inexperienced with they just think they are cute. We have to manage the breed traits we as humans have instilled in them as most breeds are classed as working dogs. I sadly have seen last year two vizlas flushing an area of trees and flushing out two deer. They chased the deer out the park and the owner was totally oblivious. I managed to get my dog on her lead quickly as I understand her body language that something was about to happen. This experience left me quite shocked but glad that I am intune with my own dog. In response to the notes about about cats in the park I do regularly see cats early morning in the park and I suspect there are many we don’t see esp at night. And in response to the dog mess being left it has got really bad again. It seems to be bigger dogs as well. I did call one owner out on it and people genuinely think they aren’t doing any harm. The dog mess thing really makes me cross. You can’t guarantee all dogs have been wormed and all sorts of nasties can be passed on let alone the damage it does for wildlife and ecosystem. It’s pure laziness.

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