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Give a dormouse a home
As a wildlife enthusiast, you probably know that Britain’s hazel dormice are in peril. Ancient woodlands where dormice once flourished are scarce to find, and the hedgerows that provided vital wildlife corridors have declined in both extent and condition over the past decades. Dormouse populations are subsequently left isolated and unable to travel between woodlands.
Our State of Britain’s Dormice report, published just last month, reveals an alarming loss of 51% of the population since 2000.
As a result of these catastrophic changes, our beloved dormice are now confined mainly to southern England and Wales, where they remain under threat of extinction. We are battling to turn around this decline. We’re reintroducing dormice to counties where they’ve already gone extinct. And, to make sure they have ideal homes, we’re promoting improvements in woodland and hedgerow management. Many of our dormouse populations are doing well, where the conditions are just right. But others remain in decline.
One tool that is integral to our dormouse conservation work, particularly where the habitat is not optimal, is the humble wooden nest box. As natural nesting and breeding sites become increasingly hard to find, nest boxes provide shelter and a safe space to breed during the summer months, when dormice are active. Here, the dormice can take shelter from wind and rain, hide from predators, birth and raise their young, and even just enjoy a leisurely nap. We supply around 3000 nest boxes every year to various sites in Britain, some of which will be installed for the first time and the remainder to replace older, rotted boxes. Each reintroduction alone requires 200 nest boxes to be built and installed at the release site, so that the released dormice have the best possible chance of surviving.
As well as providing shelter for dormice, nest boxes are integral to monitoring populations in England and Wales, as part of our National Dormice Monitoring Programme. The boxes are checked at least twice a year and information including number of dormice, age and sex is recorded on our national database. During this festive period, whilst the dormice are hibernating on the forest floor, our team of volunteers will start the long process of clearing out the boxes and getting them ready for spring, when dormice awaken from their six-month slumber. Our woodland on the Isle of Wight has over 700 boxes – monitoring, recording and preparing the nest boxes requires a huge amount of resources.
Will you give a dormouse a home this winter?
What’s so special about hazel dormice?
One of only three British mammals to truly hibernate (along with hedgehogs and bats), the sleepy, furry dormouse has forever been one of our bestloved species. Ecologically they also play a very important role as their presence indicates high quality scrub and woodland habitat. We provide advice to woodland owners, site managers and ecological consultants on how to make their woods more dormouse-friendly. In turn, these woods, managed sensitively for dormice, are of such a high standard that countless other wildlife species also reap the benefits.