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Forestry Commission rangers and reptile experts have teamed up to boost the woodland habitat for the West Midlands' populations of snakes and lizards.
Work has been undertaken to clear areas within woodlands in the Marches area, such as Mortimer Forest and Wigmore Rolls, near Ludlow, and Shobdon Woods, near Leominster.
By creating rides (clear areas) more sunlight is able to reach the forest floor. This is good for reptiles, which rely on the sun to warm their bodies and produce energy. It also benefits the forests’ butterfly populations.
Forestry Commission ranger Brian Hicks said:
“We are working with the Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team to enhance habitat for reptiles in our forests and woodlands.
“Creating openings in woodland increases the basking and feeding opportunities for reptiles, especially around their hibernation sites. Leaving corridors of bracken uncut also allows reptiles to move around our woodland more freely.”
Four of the UK’s six native reptile species have been found in the Marches forests – these are slow worm, grass snake, adder and common lizard.
As well as creating rides, areas around hibernation sites were cleared and piles of dead wood were left in the forest to provide foraging sites.
Nigel Hand, a reptile expert from the Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team, said that reptiles are an important part of the woodland ecosystem and it is important to make the woodlands favourable for them at a time when habitats are being increasingly lost. He said:
“Reptile species like the adder and common lizard are in dire straits in the West Midlands mainly through persecution and habitat loss.
“Woodland has become increasingly fragmented and some reptile species find it difficult to cross obstacles such as roads and agricultural fields.
“Large forests and woodlands such as Mortimer are among the best sites for reptiles. Opening up areas and stacking up dead wood all helps to give the reptiles a better chance of survival.”
Reptiles are a good indicator species to determine the health of a forest. If reptile numbers are good then the biodiversity of a woodland is generally in a healthy condition.
For more information on Mortimer Forest and the work of the Forestry Commission in the Marches area visit www.forestry.gov.uk/marches
Notes to Editors
The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The West Midlands region covers the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands and parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire. To find out more about Forestry Commission England visit www.forestry.gov.uk/england.
Georgina Sharp (Recreation Ranger) at the Forestry Commission’s Mortimer Forest Office on 01584 813826 or 07795 052426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org