In the wake of a serious dog attack on two sheep a plea has gone out to pet owners to keep their animals under control at a critical time for lambing.
Lake District National Park ranger Steve Tatlock said police were investigating an appalling incident where breeding ewes in fields near Bowness-on-Windermere had been savaged, leaving their ears badly torn and faces gashed.
He added: "Police are asking for information and in turn we are appealing to dog owners to take special care of their pets near sheep. Most walkers are sensitive to the needs of wildlife when out with their dogs, but the thoughtless minority can and do cause havoc.
"This is a very sensitive and important time. A dog chasing lambing sheep can cause them to abort and, in the worst cases, kill the ewe.
"Farmers have reported some sickening cases over the years and ultimately they have a defence for shooting dogs in protection of their animals. This is obviously a last resort, but sometimes they have no other choice.
"Obviously, we are early in the season, but that doesn't stop horrific injuries from out of control dogs, as we've already seen.
"Lambing time coincides with ground nesting birds producing their offspring, which are also at great risk from attack.
"Species such as curlew, lapwing, snipe and grouse have nests disturbed by dogs and their chicks scattered. And once away from the nest, their chances of survival plummet. We've seen a worrying decline in numbers and must do all we can to protect them."
By law, canines must be controlled so that they do not scare or disturb livestock or wildlife. On open access land they have to be kept on short leads from 1 March to 31 July – and all year round near sheep. Close supervision is also required on public rights of way.
Steve added: "We want as many people as possible to enjoy our magnificent countryside. We just ask that a close eye is kept on dogs at such an important time for our animals and wildlife.
"Police are asking for any information on the Bowness incident to be reported on their 101 number, or anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.