Animals and plants in Rold Skov


Denmark’s largest original forest naturally has a comprehensive wildlife. Rold Skov forest’s 8,000 hectares encompass so many different habitat and forest types that a very large number of forest, bog and meadow animals are found here. Keep all your senses alert as you walk through the forest, and at the end of the day you are almost bound to see roe deer, foxes, hares as well as numerous species of birds, depending on the time of year. Ordinary woodland birds in Rold Skov forest include the great spotted woodpecker, common buzzard, tawny owl, raven, common crossbill and nuthatch.

Red deer

Red deer have great significance for Rold Skov forest. Red deer have been in Denmark since the Stone Age. In the 18th century, the population of red deer was so large that it was a pest for agriculture and forestry. Therefore, in 1799, the Crown decided that all red deer were to be shot. On Funen and Zealand the last red deer was shot in the mid-19th century. In Jutland, a small population was still left, and in 1872 a couple of estates decided to let them live - these were the Lindenborg estate in Rold Skov forest and Løvenholm forests in Djursland. Today, this old strain is only found in two places; the fenced-in Toft Skov in Lille Vildmose, and running wild in the game preserves in Rold Skov. The red deer in particular were the target of the forests’ poacher and many families were fed when Dad got lucky.

The red deer is very shy, so we cannot guarantee a sighting. One of the places where red deer are most often spotted is at Tveden, which is an open area in Rold Skov forest along the old Hobro country road. Twilight is the best time to see a herd of grazing red deer. You may also be able to spot the red deer in the fields leading towards the forest at the Haverslevvej road, east and west of the town of Årestrup.

In September and October, try taking an evening drive out to the western part of Rold Skov forest when the red deer is in rut. There is a good chance of hearing the calls of the male deer. Just remember that this is private forest and access is not permitted after dark, but the howls of the red deer are easily heard from public roads. In the state-owned forest part of Hesselholt forest, you can look for other signs of the red deer during the daytime; tracks, mud-bathing sites, places where the animals have peeled the bark off conifers, excrement. Rold Skov forest has about 900 red deer.


Even though a very large part of the giant Rold Skov forest is dominated by conifer production, the forest also offers an outstanding botanical experience. Just consider the slipper orchids in Bjergeskoven forest, the beeches in Troldeskoven, the heath in Rebild Bakker (National park) the Lindenborg Ådal with nutrient-rich moorland and meadows of orchids, the different types of lakes, the springs which are green all-year-round, the raised bogs and much more. Rold Skov forest invites you on a botanical treasure hunt.

Rare plants in a cage

The fence around the habitat of the slipper orchids in the Bjergeskoven forest has long since celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Unfortunately, not long after the plant was discovered, it turned out people were unable to leave it alone. Even today, rare orchids are popular with unscrupulous plant collectors. All Danish orchids are conserved, and plucking or digging them up is liable to fines.

Previously, the slipper orchid had almost disappeared from Bjergeskoven forest, but careful nature management inside the fence has helped ensure increasing numbers of flowering buds every year. These long-term efforts may, however, quickly prove to be useless. In 2012, 44 plants, or more than one-fifth of the population was dug up and stolen, mocking the thousands of visitors who each year flock to the forest to see this jewel of the forest blooming around 1 June.

The fence around slipper orchids includes a beautiful growth of Hepatica and the wonderful Red Helleborine orchid, which are almost even more rare than slipper orchids at European level. Red Helleborine blooms in July.

The black woodpecker

The black woodpecker is mostly seen in old deciduous forest. Prior to 1988, the laughter-like call of the black woodpecker was a rare sound in Rold Skov forest. Woodpeckers the size of crows are now regularly heard in many places in the forest, but it is far from common. Visit the old, tall beeches and tilt your head well back. According to studies, the hole is usually about 13 meters above the ground. Compared with the spotted woodpecker, the black woodpecker chooses fresh trees, and as it normally builds a new nest site each year, it can be something of a trial for commercial forestry.

In the state-owned part of Rold Skov forest, there is a little help to find the woodpecker. Trees with woodpecker holes or nests made by birds of prey are painted with a big F for bird’s tree (“fugletræ” in Danish) to prevent the trees being felled by accident. The black woodpecker is a shy bird, so once you have found the hole or heard its shrill call, take a seat and blend into the forest.

Other hole-dwelling birds benefit greatly from the carpentry work of the black woodpecker. During springtime in the deciduous forest you can hear a jerky call of a pigeon, slightly different than the cooing of the wood pigeon. This is the call of the rare stock pigeon, which exploits the nest holes of the black woodpecker.

Read more about the symbiosis between these two rare species of birds and where to find them in Rold Skov forest (in Danish)

Read more about the black woodpecker (in Danish)

Read more about the stock pigeon (in Danish)


There are eight different species of bats in Rold Skov forest, out of a total of 17 Danish species. The forest is attractive to bats because of the combination of watercourses and lakes in the forest which provide good opportunities for food, and because of the hibernation sites in the Thingbæk limestone mines and numerous hollow trees, woodpecker holes and other places. The houses of the forest are also popular, even the forest supervisor’s Mosskovgård house has a population of the smallest Danish species; the pipistrelle.

The bats can be seen all-year-round in the Thingbæk limestone mines where around 500 bats reside; particularly Daubenton's bats. Otherwise try spending an evening on the bank of the Lindenborg Å stream or one of the forest’s lakes and experience the bats’ amazing hunt for insects above the surface of the water. Our largest species, the great bat, can also be seen just before sunset when it flies out early to hunt.

All the species of bats hibernate from October to April. Some species prefer hollow trees, whereas a number of species seek old limestone mines or buildings. In Rold Skov forest, bats receive special help as a couple of ammunition bunkers from the Cold War were especially designed for bats.

The flying mice of Rold Skov forest include: Serotines, noctules, long-eared bats, pond bats, Daubenton's bats, natter’s bats, pipistrelles and Brandt’s bats.

Trees and the cows

History shows that grazing with cows and pigs has been crucial for the development of the forest and its plant growth. When grazing and excessive trees felling nearly destroyed the Danish forests, animals left the forest with the 1805 forest listing regulations. Never again - or what? Today you will pass a cattle fence when visiting Bjergeskoven forest and the slipper orchids, or when walking in the old oak forest in Skindbjerglund, and if you are lucky, you might see a black-and-white heifer.

The Danish Nature Agency has reintroduced cattle grazing in some of the areas which were designated as “untouched forest” in the natural forest strategy. Controlled grazing may increase biodiversity and help prevent one of the real plagues of the forest - maple. The cattle love young maple and as they tread on the forest floor they even stimulate sprouting beech as well as numerous forest herbs. Finally, grazing stimulates plants which need light and thrive in forest clearings.

Read more about Skindbjerglund (in Danish)

State-grown moss

In 2004, the state began restoring the drained raised bog west of the St. Økssø lake. The dark forest of Sitka spruce was cut down and the dense system of drainage ditches was blocked at hundreds of places to keep the water back. Even though no plants grew beneath the pine forest, fortunately there were a few ditches with living sphagnum moss which is the main part of a raised bog.

It will be many years before the area has restored itself as a raised bog, but plants characteristic of raised bogs have quickly emerged. These include cotton grass, heather, bell heather, bog rosemary, blueberries, mountain cranberries and cranberries. Furthermore, tests have been carried out with the spreading of live sphagnum moss to advance the restoration of the raised bog. Different types of sphagnum moss thrive in old ditches, which are slowly filled by the living bog.

Experience the fascinating bog from the paths around the lake or along the bog. The bog is fenced in and grazed by goats. Tens of thousands of small birch plants germinate when the ground is exposed to light and water, but they are effectively eaten by the goats. A few areas are not fenced in to illustrate what happens when there is no grazing. In the long term, hopefully the bog will be so wet and nutrient-poor that birch cannot grow.

Read more about test with spreading live sphagnum moss (in Danish)

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