The hazel dormouse is one of the UK’s most elusive native mammals and arguably the most adorable. Its wide eyes and fluffy tail, and the way it curls itself up into a cosy little ball could soften even the hardest of hearts.
Sadly, Britain’s dormice are under threat of extinction. Changes in the way we manage farmland and woodland is making it harder for them to survive.
Dormice need well-managed woodlands connected by hedgerows rich in fruiting plants so they can spread and prosper. They thrived at a time when we had many more hedgerows, and when hazel trees in woodlands were regularly coppiced providing plenty of nuts for food.
Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and donations from The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Seasons Ecology, we have been able to provide safe and sheltered spaces for dormice to raise their young in the Blackdown Hills. In the spring of 2016, the Blackdown Hills Natural Futures project team, with the help of over 40 volunteers, installed 300 nest boxes for dormice at six new National Dormouse Monitoring Programme sites in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The volunteers are now helping licensed dormouse handlers to monitor them.
The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme was established 25 years ago by PTES. It is an initiative that collates data from sites across the UK to keep a record of the distribution and abundance of dormouse populations at a national level.