Volunteering with the dormouse reintroduction of summer 2021

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David Talbot describes his experience volunteering this summer with the Back On Our Map (BOOM), Natural England and Morecambe Bay Partnership (MBP) during the landmark release of the 1000th hazel dormouse in Britain, as part of PTES’ National Dormouse Reintroduction Programme.

Getting involved in citizen science

My experience as a volunteer started pre Covid-19 in 2019, with a meeting of interested parties in Silverdale, just a couple of miles from the future dormouse release site in Lancashire. Whilst this was a general pitch for support across the whole spectrum of BOOM activities, I was drawn to the Dormouse project.

I came to this with a broad interest in natural history, being past Chair of the local Arnside & District Natural History Society, and previous involvement with Natural England, Morecambe Bay Partnership (MBP) and National Trust volunteering in Morecambe Bay. A further inducement was that the release site is only 5 minutes from my home with future dormouse release sites even closer!

The initial public presentations were open and friendly and struck me as having a good balance between science and public (volunteer) experience and immediately presented an opportunity to get involved in some interesting citizen science.

Meeting the team

Once the project was given the go-ahead the volunteers met up for introductions, project scoping and all the appropriate health and safety briefings. This was also the start of positioning the nest boxes throughout the woodland.

A fortnight later, I was back onsite positioning more dormouse nest boxes and footprint tunnels, and recording these as precise map references with sat-nav.

15th June was the big day when the dormice arrived with Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), with the press and media in attendance. Most of the volunteers were invited and all parties were happy for the volunteers to be involved. After an excellent presentation to both the media and volunteers by Ian White (PTES), we were all directly helping with the distribution of the dormice to the soft release cages.

Dormouse monitoring

On seven occasions since then, along with other volunteers, I have made visits to site, participating in supplementary feeding, footprint tunnel checks and detailed box checks. This included recording, nest inspection and handling/weighing/sexing of live dormice under close scrutiny of registered Licensed Handlers – (Dr Debs Brady from BOOM and Jim Turner from Natural England).

In summary, the whole process from initial briefing to seeing the dormice becoming established on site has been very well organised by MBP, BOOM and Natural England. Without exception the team has been friendly, approachable and professional and, above all, and I think I speak for all the volunteers, I have been most pleased and even a little surprised at the level of involvement the volunteers have been granted.

I look forward to continued involvement in both the reintroduction site and the other potential local sites which I know well.

Video credit to Jago Mill, Back on Our Map.

We have been working to save hazel dormice in the UK for over 20 years. Find out about our campaigns and how you too can get involved:

Header image by Clare Pengelly

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