A SPECIAL study to find out more about the wildlife in Hurn Forest has revealed a rare bat, smooth snakes and hundreds of fungi in the area.

The project, started by Hurn Parish Council, saw a biodiversity study funded by the Forestry Commission take place across the 370 hectares of forest.

The rare Bechstein bat and smooth snakes were just some of the finds.

It is hoped the results of the study, which will be revealed in the spring, will be used to educate the community and others about the ecological value of the forest. It will also be used to help conserve species in the area.

Until now the fauna of Hurn Forest has not been well recorded. So the parish council employed the services of specialist surveyors across the four seasons of 2013.

Margaret Phipps, chairman of Hurn Parish Council, said: “We already have some really interesting finds, including a rare Bechstein bat and the first confirmed record of smooth snakes in Hurn Forest.

“Two hundred and eighty-six species of fungi have been recorded here over the last few months – most are new records for Hurn Forest and, amazingly, 33 species are new to Dorset.

“Surveyors have found dozens of new species records for Hurn.

“Despite such a wet and cold spring, wildlife recording picked up and has allowed us to confirm the importance of Hurn for some species that were already well known in the local landscape, for example the silver-studded blue butterfly, which has a strong population here.

“We knew the forest contained a wide range of valuable wildlife habitats including coniferous woodland, broadleaf woodland, bog, grassland and heathland, but the extent and diversity of wildlife in these areas was not fully documented.”