A COW suffered facial injuries that were so severe it had to be put to sleep after it was attacked by a dog at a Dorset nature reserve.

The Galloway Steer cow was put to sleep the day after it was attacked at the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Tadnoll Heath nature reserve near Winfrith on Thursday, October 31.

The incident was reported to the police after a member of the public contacted the reserve’s graziers.

Dorset Wildlife Trust said it had recently upgraded signage at some of its nature reserves in Dorset, urging people to keep their dogs on leads to avoid harming wildlife and other animals that live there, such as cattle.

Leo Henley-Lock, Dorset Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve manager for the South and East, said: “This attack is particularly upsetting as we have recently installed new signage on Tadnoll nature reserve which makes it clear to visitors that your dog should be on a lead.

“We recognise that using outside space is enjoyable and can improve people’s health, but the purpose of these sites is for wildlife to thrive on them, and as a conservation charity, that has to be our first priority.”

Dogs are welcome on most Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserves, but many of these sites are managed and designed specifically for the wildlife they support, such as birds.

Some of the sites are grazed with sheep, cattle or horses, which the trust said is essential to maintain habitats like grassland and heathland on which wildlife depends.

Mr Leo Henley-Lock added: “With proper care and attention, there’s no reason why wildlife and people can’t both benefit from our nature reserves in Dorset, but we require all visitors to abide by the guidance provided. “

He added: “We recognise that many people are following the code and are responsible dog owners, and we hope they can lead by example, so this doesn’t happen again.”

Dorset Wildlife Trust has 44 nature reserves across Dorset.

Dogs are not permitted on Broad Oak Orchard, Brownsea Island, Bugdens Meadow, Girdlers Coppice and King’s Lane Orchard.

Reserves with variable zoned dog access are Happy Bottom, Lorton Meadows, Upton Heath and West Bexington.

On all other DWT nature reserves, visitors are urged to keep dogs on a short lead at all times.