Take wildlife concerns into account for Willows dog plan

Re: Dogs make take early shift at Willows (News, May 27)

We are residents on Willows Beach and see the beach used throughout the year by dog walkers, runners, families, paddlers and even some brave swimmers. We also see the wildlife that uses the beach throughout the year: water fowl and river otters.

We do not know the exact reasoning behind the current policy limiting dogs on the beach, but it is reasonable to suppose that, in addition to the concerns for children playing, some consideration was given to the life cycle of other animals. The reasons dogs are not permitted off leash in Uplands Park at this time of year, and that the grass in some parts of Oak Bay isn’t cut until late May, relates to the need for ground-nesting birds to have shelter while they raise their young.

Dog walkers are very good at cleaning up after their pets; we rarely see any dog droppings around, and we don’t see that as an issue. It is more the behaviour of some dogs, often the larger ones, that is the concern.

Geese feed along the beach in the early morning, as it is a good time to pick up seaweed and other food. Dogs race along the sand and into the water disturb them and limit the time they can safely eat. The same is, of course, true for children.

However, the geese are less commonly out during the main part of the day, so the effects are less. The geese are the largest of the feeding bird life, but there are other water birds that do the same.

The river otter family that has its holt at the north end of the beach swims down to the rocks off the foot of Bowker Avenue to feed and clean themselves. The adults can come down at any time of year, but at this time of year, the young will soon be following them. Off-leash dogs can disturb their feeding, too.

The occasional, well-trained dog probably wouldn’t be a problem, but we have recently seen 18 dogs on the stretch of beach in the 100 feet between the foot of Bowker and the willow tree outside 2031 Esplanade.

We are sure council will weigh up the pros and cons of the request before coming to a decision. We just want to make councillors aware of the factors beyond child safety that should be born in mind.

Linda and Alan Thomson

Oak Bay