HOWLING hounds on Bodmin Moor are disturbing the peace of holidaymakers, and local people say they fear action could now be taken to cut their numbers.
The North Cornwall Hunt has kept its foxhounds in kennels at St Breward for more than 100 years, but now the local authority has demanded action be taken over the noisy dogs.
An unnamed man who owns holiday accommodation in St Breward complained to Cornwall Council's environmental health department that the loud howling was disturbing the peace and tranquillity of the moorland village and officers were dispatched to measure the decibel levels.
The readings were above what was deemed acceptable and now the council has told the hunt something has to be done to curtail the noise.
However, people living in St Breward are outraged, and say they fear the hunt will have to get rid of some of the 50-strong pack.
Cornwall Council says it has a duty to investigate excessive noise and is in discussion with the hunt to seek an agreement to resolve the problem, one option being to soundproof the kennels.
Both the hunt and the complainant have gone to ground and are refusing to discuss the issue, but in the village a campaign is now under way to save the hounds.
John and Kirstie Hewitt live next door to the kennels at Tor Down Quarry and Mrs Hewitt is running the campaign.
"John and I bought Tor Down Quarry two years ago, knowing full well the kennels were next door, and we've grown to love the sound of the hounds," she said.
"I'm not particularly pro-hunt, but I'm very upset at what's happening, and so are most of the people in the village. It's outrageous, and we want the kennels to stay."
John said: " I'm a country boy and grew up with the hunt. They've been here for 110 years and are part of village life; you can set your clock by the times they start howling.
"I understand that either the kennels have to be sound-proofed or 20 of the hounds will have to go, just because there's been one complaint."
Lady Fenella Barry, who also lives near the kennels with partner Tony Radcliffe, said: "We have no grounds for criticism of the kennels. We very rarely hear the hounds, but when we do we just accept it's an important part of the heritage of St Breward and its country ways. We wholeheartedly support the master and his team."
The situation will be discussed at a parish council meeting on Tuesday night, and chairman Denis Lusby said he expected a big turnout. "I suspect a lot of people in the village have a lot of sympathy for the kennels as they've been in St Breward for more than a century, even though they may not be hunt supporters," he said.
North Cornwall Hunt chairman Mike Biddick refused to comment, as did the master of the hounds, Alan Murton.
A spokeswoman for Cornwall Council said: "Officers had a very productive meeting with representatives of the hunt kennels earlier this month which was very useful in terms of identifying potential measures to reduce noise levels.
"The main outcome of the meeting was that the hunt will consider appointing an acoustic consultant to assess whether an acoustically treated kennel could be constructed to replace or upgrade the current one."