Sheep to return to Forest of Dean

4 October 2001

Sheep to return to Forest of Dean

By FWi staff

FREE-ROAMING sheep could return to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire – six months after being wiped out in the foot-and-mouth cull.

The go ahead for re-introduction of sheep to the forest is set to be given soon, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

About 5000 animals were culled by at the height of the crisis in April. It left the forest bare of sheep for the first time in living memory.

Gloucestershire was officially declared disease-free last week. But strict measures will stay in place in the forest until 27 October.

From that date on commoners, known in the district as badgers, will be able to re-introduce their animals to the woods.

Commoners Association chairman Don Johns said it remained to be seen how many of his members would be restocking the forest.

“I expect some people, some of the old commoners, will have had enough and will not bother. But there will be restocking.”

Tests showed that one-third of the culled animals were showing signs of foot-and-mouth. But it is uncertain how many of the cases were confirmed.

Robert Purdie, of the Forest of Dean branch of the National Farmers Union, said government officials were right to keep some restrictions in place.

“I think you have to be optimistic and hope for the best,” he said.

“People here are frightened silly that the disease will return around the autumn because it is a winter disease.”

Gloucestershire County Council has re-opened 87% of the countys footpaths, but those around the Forest of Dean remain closed.


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