The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a protected species native to the UK. The hazel dormouse 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 very fortunate to have dormice present at some of our sites. This year we have found that two more of our sites are now habitats for dormice!

We have held two dormouse surveys this year at Roadford: one in May and another in September. We have been doing this since 2005 and each year it becomes more fascinating.

It seems that the dormouse population has had an average year at Roadford, probably not helped by a blast of sunshine and warmth in February and then the ‘Beast from the East’ shortly after in 2018. Our dormouse boxes are spread over four different woodlands around Roadford Lake which we cover in one day. We were fortunate to have bright, sunny and dry weather on both surveys and lots of volunteers to help. At Roadford, we found a total of 8 adults and 11 young dormice this year.

Natural populations of dormice (and all other animals) fluctuate from year to year depending on food, local weather and predation. Local distributions will also change, which we have seen at Roadford this year. For the first time in five years we have found dormice in a new area of woodland. In May, just one active female was present, weighing 14 grams. In July, there was a female (17 grams) who had three babies weighing on average 7 grams each and were between approximately 16-24 days old. In September, there were even more babies, likely from another dormouse.

For the first time, we held two dormice surveys at Trenchford which were open to volunteers. As with the dormice surveys at Roadford, these places filled up fast and we had a huge amount of interest. An extraordinary set of surveys, we found over 25 dormice, 14 of which were adults and 14 or more young dormice. This is a large population considering the general habits of dormice and the area size. Dormice live in low numbers, even in the best of woodlands. The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme suggests an average of 1.75-2.5 adult dormice per hectare. The site at Trenchford is approximately five hectares and therefore has a rate of five dormice per hectare!

As always, we find intruders to the dormice boxes. This year they included: voles, shrews, spiders, slugs, bats and a toad.

We are proudly part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme and so all of our findings go towards understanding dormice ecology and the wider populations. We will continue to keep up our good management to ensure that this protected species continues to succeed at our sites.

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who come along every year.

If you would like to receive details of these dormice events and other wildlife surveys please email [email protected].