Here are some hazel dormouse facts, to find out more about our work with dormice click here.
Hazel dormice are the only small mammals in Britain to have a completely furry tail. They have golden-brown fur and large black eyes. They are nocturnal creatures and spend most of their waking hours high among the branches of trees looking for food. They will make long detours through the treetops rather than come down to the ground and expose themselves to danger.
In winter, dormice hibernate in nests beneath the leaf litter on the forest floor. When they wake up in spring, they build woven nests of honeysuckle bark and fresh leaves in the undergrowth. If the weather is cold and wet, and food scarce, they save energy by going into ‘torpor’ – they curl up into a ball and go to sleep. Dormice therefore spend a large proportion of their lives sleeping; either hibernating in winter or in torpor in summer. It’s little wonder that the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland was portrayed as the “sleepy” dormouse!
Breeding Three to seven blind and naked young are born in July or August. The babies grow quickly and leave their mother’s nest after about two months. They must weigh about 25 grams before hibernating for the first time, otherwise their chances of surviving the winter are slim. Dormice usually have one litter a year but, if the summer is fine and long, they may have two.
Diet Flowers, honeysuckle and pollen in spring. Fruits, hazelnuts, and sweet chestnuts, as well as aphids and other small insects, in the autumn.
Habitat Deciduous woodland with a good, varied shrub understory and large, overgrown hedgerows.
Predators & threats Occasionally owls, weasels and cats but they have few natural predators. Their biggest threat is starvation during the cold winter months and the loss of their woodland habitat.
Status & distribution Hazel dormice used to be more widespread in the UK but they are now rare and vulnerable to extinction in this country. They are mostly found only in the southern counties of England and Wales.
Did you know? Dormice open hazelnuts in a very particular way. They make a round hole in the shell of the nut and leave clear teeth markings on the outside of the shell whilst the inside has no marks and is very smooth. Take part in our Great Nut Hunt today!.