RESIDENTS have been warned that they must keep dogs on leads when on heathlands across the BCP area.

In order to protect wildlife, dogs must be kept on leads from March 1 to July 31 on reserves that are characterised and dominated by heathers, gorse and grasses.

This includes Ham Common, Corfe Hills. Canford Heath, Bourne Valley, Turbary Common, Talbot Heath and Kinson Common, as well as parts of St Catherine’s Hill and Hengistbury Head.

Councillor Mark Anderson, BCP Council portfolio holder for environment, said: “We are asking all our residents to keep within the laws set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) to prevent disturbance to nesting birds.

"All dogs should be kept on a lead on all open access land including all heathland and commons across our conurbation and nationally from March 1 to July 31.

"Open Access land doesn’t include parks, greenspace and Nature Reserves that aren’t heathland or commons.

"Some areas of heathland are not designated access land and therefore are not covered under these laws, though most are still sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and home to an abundance of rare wildlife.

"We therefore are asking people to also help preserve the nature on all heathland sites by following the same set of regulations set out under the CROW Act."

Read more: Dogs must be kept on leads on Poole heathland

The local authority's countryside rangers and wardens are said to be carrying out patrols of all sites and speaking to visitors on a daily basis.

Cllr Anderson has warned that continual breaches can lead to the police getting invovled.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Mark AndersonCllr Mark Anderson

He said: “The police can speak to any persistent offenders that don’t obey the legislation, but we have not had to use that option as the majority of our visitors are happy to comply and keep their dogs on a lead or move to our less sensitive open spaces to exercise dogs off lead, but under control.

“People are also required to pick up after their dogs as the nutrients in the dog mess increase the fertility of the soil and can lead to a change in which plants grow there, which can have a knock-on effect on the animals that live there.

"We have declared an ecological emergency and are now trying to do all we can to protect and improve the natural environment across our conurbation.”