Today, Thursday 14 June 2018, we are releasing hazel dormice into a woodland in Warwickshire in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and others.
Today’s release follows last year’s reintroduction, which took place in June 2017 near Wappenbury. This was the first phase of the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme – a project coordinated by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Today’s reintroduction is the second phase of this wider landscape project, which aims to one day connect the two separate dormouse populations, creating a dormouse stronghold in Warwickshire.
Sadly hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000 – a rate of decline equivalent to 55% over 25 years. Loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat, as well as changes to traditional countryside management practices, are all factors which have caused this decline. Reintroductions play an important role in the long-term conservation of this endangered species and are part of the Species Recovery Programme supported by Natural England. This is our 27th dormouse reintroduction. Over the last 25 years, more than 900 dormice have been released at 23 different sites.
Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer explains: “Our annual reintroduction programme has been running since 1993. Since then over 900 dormice have been released into woodlands in 12 English counties where they once existed, in an effort to rebuild lost populations. This year’s reintroduction is the second phase of a wider landscape project we started in Warwickshire last year, so we hope that by returning to the same county (albeit to a different woodland) that we can connect the two populations in the future, creating a larger, self-sustaining population which we hope will help bring this species back from the brink.”
Chris Redstall, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme Manager continues: “This year’s woodland has been chosen as it is well-managed with a mixture of mature and coppiced woodland, which is the perfect habitat for hazel dormice. This, combined with ongoing sympathetic woodland management and a drive to improve surrounding hedgerow links, should help ensure the successful establishment of this new population. All the dormice released today, as well as any future offspring, will be carefully monitored to see how they’re faring. We would like to thank National Lottery players and our scheme partners for their support in helping make the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme project, and this reintroduction, possible.”
The run up to Dormouse Day
This year’s reintroduction would not be possible without weeks of hard work leading up to today’s dormouse day by our partners, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Paignton Zoo and the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Each are involved in the different stages of the dormouse reintroduction programme:
- All dormice being released today are captive bred by members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group
- Prior to release, the dormice undergo a nine-week quarantine period at ZSL London Zoo and Paignton Zoo in Devon, during which vets from both institutions conduct a full health examination to check they are in tip-top condition and reduce the risk of them passing on non-native diseases, so that they have the best chance of forming a healthy population in the wild
- Once all dormice have been given the green light, they are carefully transported to the reintroduction location, where our staff along with Natural England and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and numerous volunteers, will be on hand to ensure the smooth transition from travel nest-boxes to their new woodland accommodation
A new beginning for the dormice
After the reintroduction day, the dormice spend the next 10 days in mesh cages, which are connected to trees and contain natural foliage, food and water to help the dormice become acclimatised to their new surroundings. After this, the mesh doors of the cages are opened and eventually removed, leaving the dormice free to explore their new home and start the new chapter in their lives.