FED up farmers are considering closing permitted footpaths following a spate of sheep-worrying incidents.

The National Trust has now urged dog owners to keep their pets under control at visitor hotspots following the loss of animals.

Dogs have scared flocks at Cockshott Point, Bowness, and attacked sheep and lambs at Silverdale and Sizergh.

Brian Wilson, a farmer at Coniston Old Hall, said: “In the past couple of weeks alone we’ve seen two sheep drown in Levers Water after being chased into the reservoir by dogs and one of our ewes was mauled by a Labrador just an hour after giving birth to twins.

“She was so badly injured she had to be destroyed and the lambs were orphaned.

“It’s not just sheep either. We regularly lose our hens to dogs; I’d estimate we lose one a week in the busy visitor seasons.”

Glenn Wilkinson, of Tilberthwaite, near Coniston, said: “I’ve had sheep leave their lambs after being chased.

“Some people think that once they leave the farmyard it’s fine to let their dogs off the lead, but on these fells, there could be sheep anywhere.”

The National Trust is particularly concerned this month as the ewes and their newly-born lambs are released on to the fellsides.

A spokesman for the trust, which has 89 tenanted farms in Cumbria, said it was not clear why there had been a sudden increase in incidents, but that farmers would consider closing permitted paths if there continue to be attacks.

Mike Innerdale, assistant director of operations for the trust in Cumbria, said: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy the countryside but people need to see the heartbreak and damage that their dogs can cause.”

Katy Singleton, United Utilities headworks controller for the Coniston area, is also working closely with local shepherds. She says dead sheep had been found in and near the reservoir at Levers Water on several occasions recently.

“Most of our reservoirs in this area are fenced but we can’t do that at Levers Water,” she said.

“We work really hard to keep our reservoir water as clean as possible because ultimately it will be someone’s drinking water. The last thing we want is animal carcasses in and around the water.”

A spokesman for Cumbria Police said that officers would act on reported instances of dogs chasing sheep.