The Big Reintroduction

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Help dormice thrive once again

You may have seen on the recently published British Red List that they’re considered vulnerable to extinction, due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Dormice are now confined predominantly to southern England and Wales, despite the fact that there were once three sites in Cumbria submitting data to our National Dormice Monitoring Programme (NDMP). Sadly, two of those populations started to decline around 2003 due to poor woodland management, leaving just one isolated population in the whole of the north of England.

Without intervention, dormice could become completely extinct in northern England.

We want dormice to thrive across Britain once again. That’s why we’d originally planned to reintroduce dormice to a site in Cumbria in June this year. With huge frustration and regret, we had to postpone the reintroduction due to restrictions imposed by the ongoing pandemic. Now we want to make up for lost time, with a bigger and even more ambitious plan to protect dormice. Over the next two years, we want to release them at not just one, but three sites across Cumbria. Our goal is to establish even more populations than before, and not just restore what has been lost. By creating this ‘metapopulation’ spanning three woodlands, dormice can travel between sites both for food and to find a mate. We are committed to giving our furry-tailed pioneers the best chance possible to flourish in their new home, where they will found the most northerly dormouse population in Britain.

With your help, we want to release 40 dormice in the summer of 2021 at one site in Cumbria. Then, we want to release another 40 the following year to an adjacent site, and another ten at a third site in the same year, to improve the genetic diversity of the reintroduced populations.

Each dormouse reintroduction requires a huge amount of planning, resources, and expertise. Captive-bred dormice are initially placed in pairs in soft-release cages for ten days, in the hope that they’ll breed during this time. The specially designed cages have a small door which is opened on the tenth day so the dormice can explore their new woodland home, returning to the safety of the cage whenever they want.

Our local team of volunteers will provide supplementary food for the dormice, such as seeds, fruits, and nuts. We’ll continue to do this for a couple of months after the release, slowly reducing the amount we provide as the animals settle into their new home and find natural food. By September of each year, we expect that the dormice won’t need the extra food, but if young have been born in the soft-release cages (which happily is often the case), we’ll continue to provide food for as long as necessary.

A gift of £50 could contribute towards the £100 needed to buy a soft-release cage to help the dormice settle into their new home.

As dormice experts, we’ve already achieved so much. We’ve reintroduced almost 1000 dormice to twelve counties, eight of which they were completely extinct from. We’ve provided over 20,000 dormouse boxes to hundreds of sites across England and Wales. Our dormice monitoring programme, the NDMP, turned 30 this year. All this is only possible because of generous supporters like you, who share our passion for wildlife and trust us to do the upmost for dormice. Thank you.

Ian White

Dormice Officer

Thank you.

Image credit: Gyalosi Beata, Shutterstock

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