Wildlife in the Forest
The Forest of Dean is famous for its large population of free roaming sheep derived from many breeds and include welsh mountain, speckled faced or cheviots with the occasional kerry or ryeland.
"Ship Badgers" is a Forest term for the residents who claim to have ancient rights to graze sheep freely. The sheep have been around for hundreds of years and are likely to continue to be part of the Forest scenery.
In Norman times, the Forest was protected as a games reserve where red, roe and fallow deer and wild boar were hunted. These became extinct by the 14th century, and so did the wolf of the wildland, their natural predator. Today, it is only fallow deer that can be found, and very occasionally, a roe deer is spotted. Deer can be seen throughout the year, but the best time to hear them is in Autumn during the mating season or 'rut'. Early morning or dusk is the time when you are most likely to see deer in the Forest as during the day, they lay up in the undergrowth.
Badgers centre their life around their underground home or sett, emerging after sunset for food.
Smaller animals shelter in the trees and pastures including grey squirrels, voles, hedgehogs, foxes and dormice. There are several species of bats recorded within the Forest of Dean district and they are protected. The pipistrelle, noctule and long-eared bat are the most common species.
The Forest of Dean contains most of the nesting birds, which are normally associated with uneven aged, mixed broadleaves, and coniferous woodland of lowland Britain. Unusual features include a few pairs of ravens which occupy the quieter quarries, dippers which nest in the banks and bridges of our streams and the pied flycatcher which nests in natural cavities of the older oaks and readily takes to nestboxes. There is also a population of mandarin ducks which migrate between the lakes in the forest. These actually nest in the trees which is unusual for ducks.
The large oaks of the Forest of Dean individually can support up to 300 different insects and their old hollow branches and trunks have been nest sites to many generations of tawny owls and woodpeckers.
The Forest is home to over thirty different species of butterfly. Specialities include purple hairstreak, white admiral, silver washed fritillary, grizzled skipper and wood white, while open areas support small copper, marbled white, small heath and common blue.