Survey to help protect rare bats in North Wales

A digital map of abandoned mine shafts and entrances with potential for use by a rare species of bat is being created.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is using funding from the Welsh Government’s Nature Networks Fund to carry out baseline habitat monitoring work for lesser horseshoe bats at Gwydyr Forest Mines Special Area of Conservation.

The work will include a comprehensive forest-wide survey of potential bat hibernation and roosting features, and will better inform forestry, safety, conservation and water management operations at the site.

The monitoring will include a walkover survey to map and assess all shafts, adits and mine entrances from above ground to create a comprehensive digital map ahead of a targeted second survey to find more detailed information regarding bat numbers and usage.

Lesser horseshoe bats, which are the size of a plum with a wingspan of 20-25cm, are rare in the UK and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Habitat Regulations 2017.

Sam Dyer, NRW’s Specialist Advisor for Terrestrial Habitats and Species, said:

“Gwydyr Forest Mines Special Area of Conservation contains important hibernation features for the lesser horseshoe bat.
“All bat species are legally protected and are particularly vulnerable to disturbance whilst hibernating during the winter.
“Therefore, the protection of hibernation sites and the surrounding habitat is key to the species thriving within the site.
“Knowing more about how the mining features are used by bats will enable us to better manage the wider forest for the bats, ensuring resilience of this species into the future.
“Although this is a comprehensive forest-wide survey, volunteers, including those from Gwynedd Bat Group, have been carrying out surveys of some of the mines for many years and we would like to thank them for their efforts.”

The Nature Networks Fund is an initiative delivered in partnership by Welsh Government, National Lottery Heritage Fund and NRW to strengthen the resilience of Wales’ network of protected land and marine sites, supporting nature’s recovery while actively encouraging community engagement.