SIGNS urging dog owners to respect Ilkley Moor and keep their pets on a lead to protect wildlife have been vandalised and stolen less than two weeks after being installed.

The moorland across the Bradford district is heavily protected (and designated at international level) for, amongst other things, its populations of moorland ground nesting birds which includes curlew, lapwing, golden plover, merlin, short-eared owl and red grouse.

Ilkley Gazette: A red grouse on Ilkley MoorA red grouse on Ilkley Moor (Image: submitted)

Officers from Bradford Council’s Countryside Team put up signs asking people to respect the environment and keep their dogs on a lead, so as not to disturb these precious species especially during this sensitive breeding time.

This year, extra signs have been put up, with the support of the Friends of Ilkley Moor, at the more sensitive nesting areas on the top of the moor. Unfortunately, less than two weeks after the signs have been put up, most of them have been ripped from their posts and stolen.

Danny Jackson from Bradford Council’s Countryside and Rights of Way team said: “Dogs are naturally inquisitive, but this can lead to real problems, especially from now until the end of summer, when many species are breeding. It’s not only the impact on ground-nesting birds, but dogs roaming free can disturb other wildlife including amphibians and mammals, as well as grazing livestock.

“The stolen signs will be replaced, but this adds to the cost of protecting the moorland areas and their wildlife. It will also take up valuable officer and volunteer time. We are asking users of the moors to respect the moorland environment and keep their dogs on a lead. If you witness these signs being tampered with and can tie the perpetrator back to a registration number of a car for example, please report this to us so that we can follow it up.”

Ilkley Gazette: A lapwing on Ilkley MoorA lapwing on Ilkley Moor (Image: Philip Robins)

The Friends of Ilkley Moor wholeheartedly support Bradford Council's signs asking dog walkers to keep their dogs on a lead, on Ilkley Moor, during the birds nesting season.

Owen Wells, Chair of The Friends of Ilkley Moor, said: "I am sure that the vast majority of dog walkers are nature lovers, who love it when they hear a skylark singing above them. They are enthralled to see a little owl or curlews and golden plovers flying over the Moor. What those dog owners may not realise is, if they let their dogs run free during the bird nesting season, then they will not see or hear those birds as they will be unable to breed on the Moor. The restriction that insists that dogs should be kept on a lead during the nesting season is, most emphatically, not simply about grouse. It is about all the many species that nest on our Moor. So, dog walkers, if you want to hear skylarks singing, then please, please keep your dog on a lead during the nesting season. I am a dog owner and, during those critical months my dog is on his lead on Ilkley Moor. If I want him to run free, I take him to the riverside."

Ilkley Gazette: Ilkley MoorIlkley Moor (Image: submitted)

Bradford Council is appealing to dog owners to play their part in protecting wildlife during ground nesting season, and livestock such as sheep during lambing season, by being responsible and keeping their pets on a lead.

The law says on Open Access Land dogs must be kept on a lead around livestock, and also between March 1 and July 31 dogs must be on a lead that is no more that 2m long on Open Access land, even if there is no livestock on the land.

There is also a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which requires dogs to be put on a lead and a fixed penalty fine can be issued on refusal – this covers open spaces in the Bradford district including Ilkley and Burley Moor.

The PSPO is in place to protect birds during the UK ground-nesting season, which is March to July. The presence of dogs roaming not on a lead is enough to scare the birds away and prevent them from nesting. It can also cause them stress which mean they waste vital energy by frequently flying out of the way, failing to lay eggs or even abandoning their chicks.

The PSPO is also in place to protect livestock, such as sheep during lambing season, this can run up to as late as June. The distress and exhaustion from being chased can cause pregnant animals to miscarry or die and young lambs can also become separated from their mothers which can lead to them becoming orphaned. A farmer can shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing livestock.

For information on the Countryside Code and the law around dog walking in the countryside visit