Dormice are already extinct in some areas, having once been widespread throughout much of Britain. Our campaign is reversing this devastating decline.
Hazel dormice are hanging on mostly in the southern parts of England and Wales. But changes in woodland management, farming practices, loss of hedgerows and the fragmentation of woodland have all taken a heavy toll on their living space.
Dormice are a protected species in Britain and regarded by government, as well as us, as a priority for conservation action. Our dormouse campaign has three main elements:
1) Our nationwide monitoring scheme keeps a close eye on how dormice are doing. We have over 25 years of records painstakingly collected by hundreds of volunteer monitors that guide our actions to save dormice.
2) Our reintroduction programme has so far covered 12 counties at 19 sites. We regularly check how they are faring and how far they have spread and advise on dormouse-friendly land management.
3) It is so important to manage woodlands and hedgerows appropriately that we provide training and guides for woodland managers and others looking after the land.
- Download our leaflet about our PTES dormouse conservation in England and Wales.
Dormouse facts and reasons for their decline
As well as being good indicators of animal and plant diversity and delightful little animals, hazel dormice are part of the most ancient group of rodents in the world, dating back more than 40 million years.
Dormice need well managed woodlands connected by hedgerows so that they can spread. They thrived when hazel trees in woodlands were regularly cut back (coppiced) because this provided plenty of fruiting trees for food. Despite the revival of coppicing in some areas, many woodlands have changed too drastically to support dormice. The loss of two thirds of our nation’s hedgerows, and the lack of suitable management of many that remain, makes matters worse. The dormice that do remain have limited living space and are increasingly isolated.
With your support we can save them before it is too late.
To learn more about the life of a hazel dormouse see our fact file.
1) The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP)
The NDMP has been running for the past 25 years and has several hundred trained monitors responsible for organising surveys using dormouse boxes throughout the year.
In 2014, we were sent 6,827 hazel dormice records from 387 sites. We are extremely grateful to all our dormouse monitors for their contribution to the programme. Read the latest findings and articles in our publications section.
- Registered monitors can download the NDMP guidelines and forms 2015 and enter records here. Register your site as part of our nationwide scheme by completing our NDMP new site registration form and apply for boxes below.
- If you are interested in regularly monitoring dormice you will need to apply for a dormouse licence via Natural England or Natural Resources Wales. You can find additional resources on our dormouse training pages.
- Anyone of any age can get involved in looking for dormice by carrying out a nut hunt.
- We also take one-off sightings via our National Dormouse Database.
Dormouse nest boxes
Dormouse nest boxes are central to our scheme. These wooden boxes are similar to bird boxes, but with the entrance hole at the back of the box facing the tree. As well as providing additional shelter for hazel dormice, and other visitors, they offer a way for us to detect these rare creatures. Large numbers of boxes can even boost populations.
Please note inspecting nest boxes requires a licence from Natural England or Natural Resources Wales in areas where dormice are already known to be present. If boxes or tubes are put out speculatively to detect presence, this in itself does not require a licence, but a licence is essential once the first dormouse has been found.
Dormouse monitoring conference
In 2013 we held our first Dormouse Monitoring conference for NDMP volunteers. You can view videos and other resources from the weekend here.
2) Reintroducing dormice
We are returning dormice to parts of Britain from which they are lost or where their numbers are worryingly low. In partnership with various other organisations, we’ve already carried out 24 reintroductions and have returned dormice to six counties where they had sadly become extinct.
The success of the reintroductions are carefully monitored. At five of these sites dormice have successfully spread throughout the woodland where they were released. At seven sites they done even better, not only dispersing throughout the wood but starting to venture into the wider countryside which is great news.
Our latest reintroductions
On 10 June 2014 we successfully reintroduced 21 breeding pairs of dormice into a woodland in Nottinghamshire close to another where we reintroduced some the previous summer.
The dormice were released into large cages secured to trees. A team of volunteers checked the cages and provide food and water whilst the dormice got used to the sounds and smells of their new wild home. After two weeks small openings were made in the cages allowing the dormice go free and explore their new surroundings. The volunteers continued to visit the cages to provide food until it was no longer required.
16 baby dormice were recorded later in the summer making this a highly successful reintroduction.
Nest boxes were put up in the wood give the dormice somewhere to nest over the summer and autumn and allowed licenced volunteers to monitor the population ongoingly to see how well they do.
2015 dormouse reintroduction
This summer we plan to release 40 dormice to a third woodland close to the two previous sites. And we’ll be embarking on the next phase of the project to make sure the entire project is a success – improving the landscape between the three sites so the dormice can reach each other.
You can read about our successes in Natural England’s recent review of dormouse reintroductions.
3) Dormouse training and guides
You can learn more about managing land for dormice to give them the best chance of survival by attending one of our professional training courses.
You can also learn more in our online training area and in the leaflets below.
If you would simply like to get the chance to see these endangered mammals in their natural habitat, join us on a Wildlife Encounter.
Resources to help and survey dormice
- Guide to managing small woodlands for dormice
- Guide to wildlife and management of hedgerows
- The dormouse conservation handbook
In addition to our own programmes we are constantly supporting vital dormouse research projects around the country. Read more about these projects and how you could apply for funding.
We have recently commissioned a review of 100 dormouse studies.