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Bambi is ok but barn owls suffer

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Forest chiefs in North Yorkshire have expressed their concern for the fate of some of the region’s best loved wildlife during the cold snap.

Insect eating birds like robins, dunnocks, wrens and goldcrest are all finding it tough to find food with over a foot of snow in places like Dalby Forest, near Pickering, and Wykeham Forest, near Scarborough. Small birds like these also lose heat rapidly and need to keep energy levels high.

Barn owls are also suffering, explained Forestry Commission Wildlife Officer Brian Walker:

“After just a week’s snow cover barn owls can struggle to find enough prey like small mice and voles. Well we’ve had snow for almost a month in some areas and it’s now a common sight to see what is a nocturnal bird hunting during the day to find enough nourishment. We have a barn owl box project running in our forests and we’ll be anxiously waiting to see how many birds make it through the winter. Starvation could be a major problem.”

But it's not all bad news. Red, fallow and roe deer are all found in local Forestry Commission woods and they tolerate grim winter weather pretty well, being well fattened in the autumn to see out lean spells. But another cold and wet snap in March could spell serious trouble with reserves all used up.

Brian Walker continued:

“Bats are deep in hibernation, so providing they are not disturbed they should be ok. Adders too are deep in slumber so hopefully the cold will not have penetrated their underground bolt holes.

“Tawny owls are also pretty durable and unlike the barn owls hunt in the forest where there are better pickings in this kind of weather. By and large the forest is a good place to be for an animal. The trees create a micro climate that’s not as cold as open areas and where wildlife can find shelter. But this winter could still exact a grim toll when we reckon up the causalities.”

Richard Darn on 0113 3466085. Mobile 0775 367 0038.

Issued on behalf of the Forestry Commission by Richard Darn, COI, Leeds.