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Releasing dormice back to the wild
Hazel dormice are now officially rare and vulnerable to extinction. The steady destruction and deterioration of the woodlands and hedgerows they rely on has left dormice isolated and exposed. I have the great privilege of managing the reintroduction of dormice back to the wild where they previously thrived. It’s a programme PTES has been running since 1993 to turn around the dormouse decline.
This year, we’ve boosted the dormouse population in Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire, by releasing 44 dormice into the wild. In Derbyshire, we welcomed dormice to their new home in a large private woodland owned by the National Trust. The site is part of the National Forest, meaning there’s plenty of potential for future release sites in the vicinity. We also released dormice in Cambridgeshire, at the site of our very first reintroduction, to give the population an extra boost there. Right now, the dormice are settling into both their new homes, under the watchful eye of volunteers who are providing extra food and water. We place dormouse boxes throughout both woodlands, giving the dormice safe places to nest. They also allow us to check more easily on how they’re doing, and hopefully see the first litters of dormice born in the wild.
Prior to the release, dormice are bred and cared for by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Every dormouse is provided with water and fed a special diet, before entering a six-week quarantine period where they’re also health checked before being carefully transported to the woodland selected for their release. There they’re paired with another dormouse before being placed in large wire cages, called soft-release cages, that protect them as they acclimatise to the wild. They’re fed by volunteers, who open the cages ten days later. The whole process takes about three months, a long time, but so worth it, especially once we see new dormice born in the wild. As you can imagine, I’m already doing the early planning for next year’s release, along with the captive breeding group, Paignton Zoo and London Zoo.
Each year we need support for our dormouse reintroductions. It’s sad that dormice, like so many species, are in such trouble and face so much habitat loss. But together we are making a difference and doing what we can to make things better. If you’d like to be a part of this year’s reintroduction and help dormice return to the wild, please do give a gift to dormice today. Thank you.
With best wishes,
Header image credit National Trust Images and James Beck