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Nov 16, 2010

North West Dormouse Partnership Project

North West Dormouse Partnership Project from Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is the only native UK dormouse species. It became extinct in half its former range in England during the last century; and only a few Welsh populations are currently known. The species is protected under schedule 5 of the Wildlife& Countryside Act 1981. Theoverarching aim of the project is to increase knowledge of hazel dormouse biology to inform conservation action.

Chester Zoo works closely with partners in Cheshire and North Wales collectively known as the North West Dormouse Partnership (NWDP). The project began with a collaboration aiming to add increased scientific rigor to existing population monitoring at two sites, particularly through micro-chipping technology.

The NWDP has various components and collects data on dormouse movements, breeding behaviour, genetics, and habitat use. NWDP research has confirmed that juvenile dormice disperse within large patches of suitable habitat, but rarely move into neighbouring areas that are separated by farmland. In terms of behaviour, we have found that most dormouse litters have more than one father. We have also been able to map individual dormouse activity, showing the scale of movements and patterns of nest box use.

The project is ongoing. Regular monitoring continues, and further investigations of habitat use and population demographics are in progress. As the project enters its 6th year we are able to look into dormouse longevity, and recorded our first 5 year old animals in spring 2010; the maximum lifespan in the Moscow region was found to be six years. 

Developed by:  Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society

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