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Nature Nightmares appeal launched to help offset the cost of crime on wildlife reserves


Kent Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to help offset the costs of anti-social behaviour, vandalism, theft, and dog attacks on its nature reserves.


An awareness campaign is running alongside the Nature Nightmares Appeal in which classic horror film posters have been altered to highlight some of the issues that have been experienced on the trust’s reserves in the last few months. The posters will be shared on social media in the hope that people will change their behaviour when visiting Kent Wildlife Trust sites.


In October, the charity suffered a dog attack on cattle, arson in woodland, numerous cases of fly tipping, and deliberate vandalism to bird hides. As bonfire night approaches the clearing of fireworks has become a daily chore for rangers, impacting impact on their other duties to manage the reserves to benefit wildlife.


The cost of anti-social and criminal behaviour on Kent Wildlife Trust Reserves runs into tens of thousands of pounds each year, money that could be spent on making improvements for wildlife and visitors alike.


Incidents on Kent’s nature reserves include:


The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dexter cattle were injured when an out of control dog attacked them in Hunstead Woods in Canterbury a fortnight ago. They were left scared and hiding in the trees following the incident. The site has been a repeated location for similar incidents and the trust no longer grazes sheep there as a result.


Area manager Matt Hayes explained, ‘Thankfully, on this occasion, the cattle were able to defend themselves against the dog, but it is just another incident where our animals have been subjected to the distress of a dog attack and it is particularly frustrating as dogs should not even be in that area of the reserve. I would ask all dog owners to behave responsibly, obey signs, and keep their dogs on a lead around livestock. It is incidents like this that will lead us to review public access to this site and potentially close the permissive paths to prevent future incidents.’


The Purge

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for vandals to run amok on nature reserves. With darker nights drawing in, and the remote locations of the sites, some see the changing seasons as an invitation to behave anti-socially. This was the case with Sevenoaks nature reserve when, two weeks ago, vandals targeted the bird hides.


Area warden Paul Glanfield said, ‘The bird hides are used by our visitors to quietly watch the wildlife on this stunning reserve and it is sad that we had to take them out of action because of vandals. We will be putting CCTV on site, with night vision cameras, and will not hesitate in supporting police with prosecution should there be any repeat incidents.’


The Blair Witch Project

In a recent incident, the Kent Fire and Rescue Service had to be called upon when a fire started by wild campers got out of control near Blean Woods. Whilst it started in a neighbouring woodland it quickly spread towards the wildlife trust reserve. Matt Hayes explained, ‘Due to the unusually warm and dry October we are seeing a rise in these kinds of incidents, and it is just one of the many things we are finding ourselves having to combat on our reserves daily.’


Poltergeist

The story of the ghost of Bluebell Hill does the rounds every Halloween, but is there a lesser known spirit wreaking havoc in the area? Over the last few months volunteers and staff at Kent Wildlife Trust have been repeatedly clearing up broken crockery smashed in the car park of the reserve in the dead of night.


Wilder grazing ranger, Jess Allum, who cleared up the smasher's most recent mess, said: ‘We think someone may be smashing plates as a kind of ‘rage room’ experience. The broken crockery they leave behind is potentially harmful to wildlife and could damage the vehicles of people using the site. On this occasion, I also had to pick up the litter from a ‘baby reveal’ on the site. It makes you question what kind of a world a baby is being brought into when their parents think it is socially acceptable to fly tip on a nature reserve.’


Halloween III

Kent Wildlife Trust can confirm that a viral Facebook post encouraging people to dump their post Halloween pumpkins in the woods for wildlife is the bane of existence for conservationists across the country. Matt Hayes commented: ‘Over eight million pumpkins are discarded after Halloween, and many are dumped on our nature reserves by well meaning people who think it benefits wildlife. It does not, it attracts rats and can make hedgehogs and other animals ill or even kill them. Please don’t fly tip your pumpkin this Halloween.’


The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Pegwell Bay is a protected area due to the precious and rare wildlife that seek refuge there, however, the beautiful setting is also a draw for many visitors, with the vast majority enjoying the site without leaving a trace. However, with more visitors and recreational activities comes a rise in wildlife disturbance with surfers straying onto the protected areas and dogs chasing wading birds.


Protected area warden Nina Jones said, ‘This is a stunning site which attracts a lot of visitors, but with more visitors and recreational activities comes a rise in wildlife disturbance. We have experienced more people entering no access areas protected for birds, kite surfers defying agreements on how and where they use Pegwell Bay, and dogs chasing wading birds.


‘I would ask those taking part in water sports to keep well clear of the protected areas and not to approach seals in the bay and for dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times and to stick to the areas where dogs are permitted.’


Those wishing to support the appeal can donate via Kent Wildlife Trust’s website.


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