Sheep under threat at Welwyn Garden City nature reserve

A FLOCK of prized sheep which have graced a nature reserve for over a decade are under threat.

For, yet again, one of the animals has been injured by thugs, this time riding motorbikes.

The latest pointless attack on the flock of Hebridean sheep at WGC’s The Commons Local Nature Reserve was on Tuesday last week.

Warden Peter Oakenfull said: “Senseless individuals cut a chained gate after dark and chased the sheep on motorbikes.

“Fortunately an early walker on the reserve raised the alarm and after a spell of peace and quiet the ewe has recovered.

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Peter, who owns the sheep, added: “I walk the reserve at least once and most times twice a day. The sheep were checked at 7pm that evening and were fine. I am very grateful that so many local people walking the site watch the sheep and alert me if they see a problem.

“Incidents over the years have included children chasing them, fencing being cut, two have been killed by dogs and an older ewe with twin four-day-old lambs was killed and skinned for her meat.”

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Since their arrival on the reserve in 1999 the sheep have been a great asset in managing difficult areas of the habitat. They are a great focal point for visitors, particularly families and schoolchildren that visit The Commons.

“This may not be the case for much longer,” said Peter.

Peter and Commonswood Nature Watch, the group that manages the reserve on behalf of Welwyn Hatfield Council, have been pressuring the council to designate the reserve as a Dog Control Area.

This would make it illegal to ignore requests to keep dogs on leads in certain areas.

But so far their requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Committee member Geoff Ralph said: “We have been waiting for over a year for three new dog bins.

“It’s a disgrace that all our efforts to sort out these issues of dogs fouling and dogs being kept on leads are ignored or conveniently forgotten by the council’s landscape department. It offered no support when Peter’s first sheep was killed, let alone with the rest of the incidents.

“Do they want the sheep at The Commons?”

A council spokeswoman said: “We take very seriously our responsibility to keep the animals at The Commons Local Nature Reserve safe.

“Grazing paddocks are surrounded by stock fencing and there are signs to request that dogs are kept on leads in the vicinity of the sheep. The council is continuing to work with the site warden and is investigating further actions that could be taken to resolve the reported incidents.

“The council keeps in regular contact with the site warden on this matter and is mindful of his frustration at the inconsiderate behaviour of a small minority of people.

“The council has supported the volunteers in Commonswood Nature Watch for many years in the difficult task of caring for wildlife on an important site so close to a large urban area. It is grateful for their unwavering commitment to a challenging situation.”

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