Keeping wildlife safe whilst enjoying your pets

Bird watching with dog (C) Tom Marshall

We are a nation of animal lovers, but sometimes our furry pet friends can wreak havoc on the many wild animals we share our gardens and outdoor space with, such as birds, squirrels and hedgehogs. Our Conservation Ranger Ronald Surgenor shares top tips on how we can help reduce this threat and become more responsible pet owners.


Cats are predators, and unfortunately, this means they will kill birds and sometimes red squirrels if you are lucky enough to have these endangered creatures visit your garden. 

Make sure your cat wears a collar with a bell attached, which makes it much harder for them to ambush their prey.

Another helpful strategy is to make sure your cat is always fed well and regularly, as hungry cats are more likely to hunt wildlife.

Position bird feeders away from low shrubs, so cats cannot hide in them and ideally, above a low platform or table, so they are out of reach– this also makes them easily cleaned down to prevent the spread of disease. 

In addition, nest boxes can be positioned on high fences or walls, to make it harder for cats to reach.

If you have red squirrels in your garden and have decided to feed them, you can help protect them by ensuring your feeding station is placed somewhere high, preferably 5-6 feet up a tree.

Lastly, keep your cat indoors overnight means that they will not be outside hunting at first light when birds and red squirrels are particularly active.

Blackbird in nest box erected on wall

Blackbird in nest box erected on wall (c) Amy Lewis


Dogs’ love for chasing flocks of birds and squirrels is well known, and although it may seem harmless if they never catch their quarry, it can have a negative effect.

Firstly, if your dog does not recall on the first attempt, then it MUST be kept on a lead on at all times in nature reserves, woodlands and coastal areas.  Migratory birds such as Brent geese have travelled huge distances and have to spend a lot of time foraging to survive. Likewise, red squirrels must stock up on food during autumn, so being chased by a dog forces them to expend more energy and find even more food to survive. To help wildfowl and squirrels survive, please don’t allow your dog to chase them.  

Finally, before letting your dog out at night, turn your security lights on to check for feeding hedgehogs and badgers.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel feeding on the woodland floor (c) Ronald Surgenor

Love wildlife? Join us

Help protect the precious wildlife and wild places you love in Northern Ireland by joining our tribe.

Become a member

Kingfisher (c) Tony Dalton