At least three deer have been bitten to death by stray dogs in the Sonian Forest in the Brussels-Capital Region in just one month.
At the beginning of December, a Walloon forest ranger Nicolas Bronchain found a dead deer, who likely succumbed to a heart attack after being chased by a dog, reports La Capitale.
One week later, Bronchain was again called by passers-by who saw a dog chasing something, not far from the Château de La Hulpe. Shortly afterwards, the ranger found a deer with bite marks.
On 6 January, the forest ranger was alerted again because hikers found a dying deer. On this animal, too, Bronchain found traces indicating that it had fled. The deer had bite marks on its neck and the hikers testified about sounds of dogs just before, reports Bruzz.
In the same period, there were two more incidents also happened in the Sonian Forest area managed by Wallonia, but without a fatal outcome: a horse ran away because of a loose dog and threw the rider off, and the ranger found two dogs chasing a deer. The animal may have escaped, as it has not been found.
What are the rules for dogs in the forest?
As the Sonian Forest stretches across the three Belgian regions, the regulations are not always clear to everyone: in Wallonia and Flanders, dogs must be kept on a leash in the forest. In Brussels, however, this is not needed if the dog is kept under control and is not in an area designated as a ‘sensitive area’.
According to Bruxelles Environnement, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times in the forest, unless stated otherwise.
Despite the harmonised signs in the forest, dog owners do not always abide by them, said Bronchain, who therefore pleads for harmonising the underlying legislation.
The aim is to “ensure the tranquillity of wild animals and also to respect other hikers, who sometimes do not like these animals,” Bronchain said, adding that people do not always realise how dangerous dogs are to wild animals.
“The forest is the worst place to let your dog run loose because it is a very fragile ecosystem,” he added.