Sheep recruited to help rare bat species in Forest of Dean

Lesser Horseshoe BatImage copyright Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Image caption The area is home to one of the greatest concentrations of native lesser horseshoe bats the UK

A flock of sheep is to be introduced to an area of the Forest of Dean in an attempt to help a rare species of bat.

Lesser horseshoe bats that roost at Stenders Quarry near Mitcheldean need wide open spaces to forage for food.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will graze Hebridean sheep at its nature reserve in order to stop trees and shrubs from growing.

The trust also wants to encourage the bats to breed in a disused mine tunnel by clearing debris that has fallen in.

Nature reserves manager, Kevin Caster, said managing the build-up of thorny scrub on steep slopes in the area had been “difficult to maintain”.

“Hebridean sheep are ideal because they much prefer leafy scrub to grass.

Image copyright Geograph/Clint Mann
Image caption The trust wants to move debris that has fallen in to a disused tunnel at Stenders Quarry

“The sheep can enjoy this special reserve alongside the green woodpeckers, butterflies, badgers and foxes, knowing that it will also host a bat feeding ground.”

The wider area is home to one of the greatest concentrations of native lesser horseshoe bats the UK.

The species is native to the UK but is declining rapidly in number.

The trust also said it wanted to move debris that has fallen in at one end of a disused mine tunnel at Stenders Quarry Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where lesser horseshoes roost.

It is hoped this will improve the draft within the tunnel and lead to it becoming a maternity roost, where female bats gather to have their babies.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hebridean sheep will be grazed at Stenders Quarry nature reserve

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