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Brunt and Bousfield 2002 Dormice in Planted Ancient Woodlands

Title: Dormice in Ancient Planted Woodlands, Biotype, 2002

Author: A Brunt & L Bousfield

Country: UK

Background to study

Hazel dormice are associated with coppice and mixed broadleaf woodlands, however they are known to utilise conifer woodlands, notably those existing on ancient woodland sites.  Recent efforts to restore these sites to their semi-natural character have found that complete conifer removal has negatively affected resident dormice populations. Understanding how dormice utilise conifer trees will help towards reducing negative impacts on populations during restoration and forestry operations.


  • Hazel dormice populations were monitored within coniferous blocks of 21 Planted Ancient Woodland sites (PAWS) in England and Wales.
  • 50 new nest boxes were erected at each site in grid formation and monitored monthly during the activity season. The vegetation around each nest box site was recorded.
  • Dormice were radio tracked at one site in 2001 and 2002.

Key results

  • New nest boxes were occupied by few dormice in 2001 and reflected results from national surveys at the same time. Reduced activity may have been a result of the nest boxes being new.
  • Radio-tracked dormice were found to make active use of conifer trees and day and breeding nests woven from conifer needles were found within the lower branches.
  • During autumn, dormice preferred nesting in conifers and moved to nest boxes in October, in all instances, nests were observed at the broadleaf edge of the study site.
  • Hibernation nests were recorded beneath conifers and on the edges of rides.
  • The amount of shrub layer vegetation may significantly influence nest box occupancy.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Surveys for dormouse nests should be conducted within PAWS sites prior to restoration operations with focus on the lower branches of conifer trees.
  • Restoration operations should be conducted in small units to help to reduce any isolation effects of dormice residing in coniferous blocks.
  • Additional care should be taken in areas close to broadleaf blocks where dormouse activity may be concentrated. Leaving a strip of conifers in this edge habitat will help to minimise the impact of operations on resident dormice and retain trees that may be utilised as part of daily or seasonal activity.
  • Nest boxes erected in sites adjacent to proposed clearfell blocks may be useful in attracting dormice away from the areas of operation prior to work being carried out. In all instances, nest boxes should not be new and be in areas with an established shrub layer.
  • Felling and stacking timber on ride edges between mid October and April may damage dormice hibernacula. Creating shrubby margins along rides and/or erecting nest boxes along them may help in protecting hibernating dormice.

Key words/phrases

Hazel dormouse; Muscardinus avellanarius; Planted Ancient Woodland sites; nest boxes; radio tracking; conifers; nests; restoration; clear fell operations; hibernation; shrubby margins

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