Three hours after returning from his morning inspection of wildlife in the New Forest, Packham is still seething after a spat with a man who wouldn't acknowledge the damage his spaniels were doing. "I got up at first light and wandered around for two-and-a-half hours," he says. "I saw redstart, wood warblers, a cuckoo and two roe deer; luckily, my dogs did not see them."
Had they done so, he would have beaten a hasty retreat. Not so the dog-walker whose spaniels were careering around the wet heathland. "I asked the man if he could see that speck in the sky, a curlew. 'My dogs never kill birds,' he replied. He didn't understand that the bird was flying around, not sitting on its nest, because his dogs had disturbed it.
"It happens all the time. Each day, 25,000 hours of dog-walking take place in the New Forest. The heathland is home to several 'red-listed' species of birds on the conservation list, and 45 per cent of those birds nest on the ground. During foot and mouth, when dogs were banned from the area, we had a bumper year for birds. Since the dogs have returned, bird numbers have declined."
Packham can't understand why the British won't make the connection between their behaviour and our disappearing wildlife. "When I was a boy, we all arrived at school with dog poo on our shoes because people didn't scoop it up. That's no longer acceptable. Things change. Yet people still feel they have a right to let their dogs off the lead because they have always done so."
Cat lovers – among whom he does not number – are even more blinded by sentiment. He knows he is in danger of sounding like "the Pol Pot of conservation", but it infuriates him that owners refuse to acknowledge the carnage wrought by these fluffy, domesticated killers. "Sixty million songbirds are killed every year by cats. If cats were kept in at night, predation would be cut by 50 per cent. If they were all fitted with bleeper collars, it would reduce daytime predation by 45 per cent. Most important of all: they should be neutered.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Telegraph article about nature conservation
This is an irritatingly garrulous article about TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, but it does highlight some interesting points about the relationship between dog owners and wildlife. Here’s an extract from the article but see the Telegraph web page for the entire story: