Hebridean sheep to help rare bat species survive

Environmental experts hope the shrub-loving sheep breed will ensure the habitat is kept bat-friendly
Environmental experts hope the shrub-loving sheep breed will ensure the habitat is kept bat-friendly

Hebridean sheep will be introduced in Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean as part of efforts to help a rare species of bat survive.

The black-coloured breed will graze the Stenders Quarry nature reserve in order to keep the area habitat friendly for the lesser horseshoe bat.

The rare species depend on wide open spaces so they can find food and insects to live off.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will introduce Hebridean sheep as they prefer to graze on leafy scrub rather than grass.



It also proposes to clear out debris from an old disused mine tunnel so female bats can find the ideal spot to breed.

The Trust's nature reserves manager, Kevin Caster, told the BBC that managing the build-up of thorny scrub on steep slopes had become 'difficult to maintain'.



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

“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 bats are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and is a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

It is not the first time sheep have been introduced to keep environments and habitats in working order.

As part of a trial, a group of farmers in Herefordshire found that the Shropshire sheep breed did not damage apple trees when grazed in an orchard.

Sheep would normally devastate the trees but this breed has been found instead to bring many benefits, such as tree management, weed control and soil health.