RAMPAGING dogs caused chaos as they chased a fox across a popular beauty spot.
Barlow Common Nature Reserve’s Rachel Stanhope was “horrified” to witness baying hounds in pursuit towards the wildlife centre soon after leaving a group of animal-loving youngsters.
Saturday’s 2.30pm “disgrace” saw her immediately run to mounted hunters to urge them to call the pack off as shocked families watched from a nearby car park.
“I felt this was unacceptable. I had just been with a party of children from Selby Watch Group – the junior arm of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – for a Christmas party and tree planting when I heard a commotion.
“I heard dogs yelping and the noise became louder and louder. When the hounds came in sight, I saw a fox running towards the centre pursued by them.
“I couldn’t believe it. This is supposed to be a sanctuary for wildlife,” stormed Selby District Council’s countryside officer.
“I shouted to huntsmen in a nearby field to call the dogs off and clear off the reserve. They claimed they weren’t hunting and, when I said I’d seen dogs chasing the fox, they said this was public land. It’s owned by Selby District Council.”
Police were scrambled to the scene. Local authority environmental health officers, now investigating the incident, will send a strongly-worded complaint to organisers now the hunt responsible has been identified.
A distressed pensioner, who lives in the village, blasted: “We’re fortunate to have the reserve at our disposal and it’s with sadness, not to say anger, we see this tranquil facility for wildlife, young families and dog walkers so cruelly abused by the hunting fraternity.
“Putting the rights and wrongs of fox hunting aside, why should several horses and a 40 to 50-strong pack of large dogs be able to crash through such a beautiful family facility, frightening babies, toddlers and dog walkers without impunity?
“There are notices telling people to keep their dogs on leads and not to ride horses there. It’s a disgrace and a fiasco.”
Countryside Alliance regional director Steve Clark yesterday confirmed hounds responsible for breaking through onto the reserve were from the Badsworth and Badsworth Moor Hunt.
Speaking on their behalf, he said: “I had a long talk with them and they expressed regret for what happened.
“They were hunting with a trail and, at some time during that, a fox popped up and the hounds got away. The hounds got through the fence of the reserve.
“Unfortunately, it took the huntsmen five to ten minutes to stop them. They made every effort to restrain them. They’re very sorry for any distress caused.
“They apologise for what happened. The hounds were eventually stopped and the fox escaped. This is one of those regrettable incidents.
“From the warden’s point of view, this was very distressing but fortunately it was over in ten minutes. This was accidental.”