On 5 April around 3ha of Town Common at St Catherine’s Hill, Dorset were set on fire; heathland fires are unfortunately all too common on the nature reserves around Bournemouth and Poole and can cause immense damage to the habitat and the creatures that live in them, 99.9% of these fires are caused either deliberately or accidentally by people.
Site managers Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) galvanised into action rescuing reptiles with some success even with the poor conditions, moving several adders, sand and common lizards to safety on surrounding habitat untouched by the fire. They continued their search for emerging reptiles for the rest of the week.
They found dead animals from all 6 species of our native reptile and this early in the season with a lot of animals still underground the death toll is likely to be much higher. A harvest mouse nest was also found to have been destroyed by the flames.
Heathlands by their nature are dry habitats and so exceedingly prone to arson and wildfires. They also are home to particularly vulnerable groups of native slow-moving reptiles that call St Catherine’s home and ground nesting birds like the nightjar and woodlark, both of which migrate long distances to nest here.
This area will take years to recover and may well be changed beyond all recognition as it grows back.
To find out more about the area click here.