Sheep farmers are pleading with dog owners to keep their pets on a lead when walking near the North York Moors National Park’s famous flocks of moorland sheep, after two ewes were killed.
Robin Mackley whose family have been farming Levisham Common for nearly 300 years said the latest attack had resulted in a Swaledale ewe in lamb having its throat ripped. In recent years he has lost more than 50 sheep and lambs as a result of thoughtless dog owners allowing their animals to run uncontrollably over the moors.
He has a flock of 200 on the moors in winter but the number doubles in summer and Mr Mackley says he and other sheep farmers are worried that with the improved weather and the tourist season ahead, coupled with the lambing season approaching, that 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 tough he said.
The reaction of some dog owners when he has approached them has been dismissive, he claimed. He caught one dog, a bull terrier, worrying his sheep last year and had threatened to shoot it but the owner in turn threatened to kill him.
Farmers are within the law to shoot a dog if it is caught worrying sheep, added Mr Mackley.
“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 warming dog owners but we have seen them taken down.”
He added: “Our plea is to the public with the lambing time and the holiday season not far away, is to keep their dogs on a lead.”