A WILDLIFE charity has issued a stern warning to dog owners after a cow was savagely attacked and had to be put down.

A Galloway Steer cow was brutally attacked by a dog on Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) land. The injuries to its face were so severe that it was put to sleep the following day.

The attack was reported to the police after a member of the public rang one of DWT’s graziers directly to let them know about the incident.

DWT, which has 44 reserves across Dorset including West Bexington, Kingcombe Meadows and Peascombe, has recently upgraded signage on selected nature reserves in the county pleading with the public to keep their dogs on leads to avoid harming wildlife and other animals that live there, such as cattle.

Dogs are welcome on most Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserves, but many of these sites are managed and designed specifically for the wildlife they support, such as birds, which can be highly sensitive to disturbance. Some of its sites are grazed with sheep, cattle or horses, which is essential to maintain habitats like grassland and heathland on which wildlife depends.

New signage had just been installed at Tadnoll Heath nature reserve, near Winfrith, when the attack took place.

DWT’s nature reserve manager for the South and East, Leo Henley-Lock said: “This attack is particularly upsetting as we have recently installed new signage on Tadnoll nature reserve which makes it clear to visitors that your dog should be on a lead. We recognise that using outside space is enjoyable and can improve people’s health, but the purpose of these sites is for wildlife to thrive on them, and as a conservation charity, that has to be our first priority. With proper care and attention, there’s no reason why wildlife and people can’t both benefit from our nature reserves in Dorset, but we require all visitors to abide by the guidance provided. We recognise that many people are following the code and are responsible dog owners, and we hope they can lead by example, so this doesn’t happen again.”

Dogs are not permitted at DWT sites including King’s Lane Orchard, Powerstock. Reserves with variable zoned dog access include West Bexington. On all other DWT nature reserves, you should keep dogs on a short lead at all times.

For more information, visit dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/dogs