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Hazel dormice – back on our map!

Dormouse on release day : Clare Pengelly

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is an arboreal species of mouse which is golden brown in appearance with a feathery tail and is native to the UK. The dormouse is a charismatic species, known for dozing in a ball throughout the day in neat circular nests with their tails tucked over their heads. Unfortunately they are considered a vulnerable species in the UK as populations have halved in the last 20 years.

Over the last two months, with the support of Manchester museum vivarium, I have been lucky enough to get involved with a hazel dormouse reintroduction project in my local area. The project is a collaboration between the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Natural England, the Morecambe Bay Partnership and the University of Cumbria’s Back on our Map project.

Volunteers checking for suitable habitat for nest box installation : Bethany Dean

The project brought 30 hazel dormice to an undisclosed location in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB in Lancashire which were bred in captivity, raised and quarantined at London Zoo ready for reintroduction last month. During the quarantine period, the health of the dormice was monitored and they were checked for any disease or parasites to ensure the mice were in fighting fit condition on their release.

Dormouse nest box and footprint tunnel : Bethany Dean

The habitat was specially chosen for its promising qualities of dense tree canopy, habitat connectivity and the presence of a variety of tree species that dormice show a particular preference for, including hazel and rowan trees. In preparation for the reintroduction, a team of volunteers including myself helped to install 200 dormouse nest boxes across the reintroduction area.

The nest boxes ensure the dormice have immediate resources for nest building and to enable close monitoring of the dormouse population by licensed project staff and volunteers. Footprint tunnels were also installed close to the nest boxes as a further measure to help understand their movements in their new habitat.

This is the first of two hazel dormouse releases planned for the area, the plan being that by next summer 80 dormice may have been released into the area. I for one am excited to see how the population develops and am hopeful for a future with dormice back in my local area where they belong!

Back on our map

Peoples trust for endangered species

Duke of Burgundy

Morecambe bay partnership

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