DOG owners are being warned of the dangers of walking their pets on a nature reserve after several showed symptoms of poisoning.

Police believe potentially deadly pellets have been put down on Talbot Heath, off East Avenue, Bournemouth, in an illegal bid to deter foxes.

But some pellets have been eaten by dogs, with at least three needing veterinary treatment.

Warning signs have been erected at the entrance to the heath and local residents are being warned to be vigilant. Paul Carter, 34, from South Kinson Drive, believes that only prompt medical treatment saved his border collie cross Badger.

He said: “I was gardening at a property near Talbot Heath when Badger found pellets buried under a tree. I believe they are the type used to kill foxes.

“Badger started shaking, convulsing and couldn’t breathe properly. The vet sedated him and injecting him with Valium to control his spasms. He was in the vet’s for two days.

“Thankfully he made a full recovery but I could have lost him if I hadn’t got him to the vet’s so quickly. People are putting these pellets down without thinking of the consequences.”

Yesterday Nigel Carr, 56, who runs a dog walking business, was among those using the heath land.

He said: “I haven’t seen any evidence of the pellets but I’m steering clear of the area where I’ve heard reports about them being put down.”

Retired boxing champion Dai Dower, 77, who lives nearby, was among walkers on the heath.

He said: “The police asked if we had seen anything suspicious in the area and now it all makes sense.

“My wife and I are animal lovers and not happy that dogs’ lives are being put at risk or pellets are being put down to kill foxes.”

Talbot and Branksome Woods councillor Lynda Price said: “This is appalling. I’m horrified to hear poison is being put down on heath land, posing a risk to dogs and other wildlife.”

PC Rob Hammond, wildlife crime officer for North Bournemouth, said: “We’re concerned that someone is using poison pellets in the area – possibly to deter foxes.

“Such pellets are potentially fatal to dogs – something which this person may not have considered.

“I would urge dog walkers using Talbot Heath to take extra care.”

A number of pellets have been retrieved and sent for analysis. The alert comes four months after a Jack Russell died hours after ingesting suspected poison behind beach huts on Southbourne beach and another dog came close to death after suffering a similar reaction.

• Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset police in confidence on 01202 2222 quoting incident number 3:342 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.