Black Hill cyclists building ramps 'putting lizards at risk'

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Trails and ramps created by cyclists at the siteImage source, Dorset Council
Image caption,
The creation of trails and jumps by cyclists is ruining habitat used by sand lizards

Rare sand lizards are being put at risk by cyclists building ramps in a nature reserve, a council has said.

Dorset's Black Hill, near Bere Regis, is being damaged by the creation of trails and jumps by cyclists in areas where they are not permitted to ride, Dorset Council said.

Sand lizards use these sandy areas of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to incubate their eggs.

Visitors are being urged to stick to bridleways marked by signposts.

Image caption,
The sand lizard is one of the UK's rarest reptiles

Nightjar birds and smooth snakes are also found at the site.

Like sand lizards, they are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, making it an offence to kill, injure, capture or disturb them.

Cyclists are only permitted to use the bridleways at the site and not other areas of the hill, which have been dug up to build the jumps, Dorset Council said.

The authority added the damage had increased since lockdown measures were introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Image source, Dorset Council
Image caption,
Blackhill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, part of the Dorset Heaths Special Protection Area and the Dorset Heaths Special Area of Conservation

Blackhills warden, Amy Gallagher, said: "Often the people who are using or creating these trails and jumps do not realise the catastrophic impact it has on the wildlife.

"For instance, sandy areas are used to incubate the eggs of one of our rarest reptiles, the sand lizard.

"Something as simple as riding across it could destroy a whole clutch of eggs hidden beneath the surface."

The council is urging members of the public to report any damage or "inappropriate use" of the site to police and Natural England.

PC Claire Dinsdale, of Dorset Police, said officers were patrolling the area.

"Anyone found causing such damage will be dealt with and any motorbikes used off road in this way will be seized," she added.

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