Unleashed Dogs Are Hazardous To Wildlife
Pat Sziber

Birders visiting the Pole Farm in Hopewell and Lawrence Townships became increasingly concerned about the threat that free-running dogs present to the short-eared owls that winter there. The owls, whose breeding population is listed as endangered in the state of New Jersey and whose resident population is listed as a species of concern, roost on the ground among the grasses, which makes them extremely vulnerable to disturbance. The Pole Farm has become famous for its winter owl population, drawing dedicated birders and photographers alike.

Because of these concerns, the Mercer County Park Commission has taken steps to educate the public about the danger that unleashed dogs present. Signs pointing out the environmentally sensitive nature of the habitat and stating that dogs must be on leash have been posted and informational brochures and posters will be available at the site.

This is not just a problem at the Pole Farm, but at other natural areas as well. Some of Baldpate Mountain’s special birds are ground nesters, as are the bobolinks and meadowlarks at the Pole Farm. The public must be made aware that it is against the law to allow dogs to run free on public land. The fine at Mercer County parks can be up to $100.

WCAS has offered to partner with Mercer County in protecting habitat on their preserved lands and helping to educate the public.

What you can do: If you witness anyone allowing their dog or dogs to run free at the Pole Farm, politely point out the signage to them and alert them to the danger to wildlife. If a person becomes confrontational, end your conversation, get a license plate number if possible, and call the County Sheriff’s office at 609-989-6111 and ask that a ranger be dispatched.




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Last revision: Sunday, February 21, 2010