The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a rare and protected mammal native to the UK. This adorable animal has become locally extinct in some places throughout the UK as populations have plummeted. The destruction of suitable habitats has been the leading reason for this decline, but we are fortunate to have dormice present at some of our sites.

At Trenchford reservoir there are currently 50 dormouse boxes which were installed about five years ago. This October, Aby Sampson (a local licensed ecologist) and I did a dormouse check. We checked all 50 boxes for evidence and any presence of dormice. We found evidence of dormice with at least three nests, although we did not find any in the boxes. As well as the dormice nests, we found two wood mice, two shrews, bees’ nests, bird nests, moths and lots of slugs and spiders.

As these boxes have been left for some time, some of them are now in a poor condition. I contacted thPeople’s Trust for Endangered Species and applied for some new boxes at Trenchford. This was successful and we now have 50 brand new boxes to house our dormice arriving in the New Year! These will be put up during the winter so that the dormice are not disturbed. Dormice go into hibernation from November time and often do this close to the ground and not in the boxes. When they come out of hibernation around April/May, depending on the weather, they will have lovely new boxes for protection.

I have also applied to register this site to the National Dormice Monitoring Programme (NDMP). The NDMP collects valuable data every year by examining the boxes, searching for evidence such as hazelnuts that have been nibbled by dormice and any nests. If there are dormice found in the boxes, someone who has been shown how to handle dormice safely by an ecologist who holds a dormouse licence can then recorded the sex, weight and age. This data gets sent to the NDMP along with around 400 different sites all over the UK. Last year just over 6,000 dormice were recorded and submitted to the NDMP.

Aby and I will continue to monitor these dormice and look after our new boxes each year. If you would like to get involved in any of our conservation work then please contact me. If you would like any more information on dormice please take a look at our website and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species website.

Emma Scotney
[email protected]