Once widespread throughout much of England, hazel dormouse numbers have steadily declined over the past 100 years. The continued threats of habitat loss through intensive farming and unsympathetic woodland management have pushed dormice to extinction across half of their former range.
It takes a big effort to save them; the Wildwood Trust have been working with other members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group alongside the People's Trust for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of London, Paignton Zoo, Natural England, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.
The Wildwood Trust (the UK’s leading captive breeding centre for dormice) are celebrating after another record breaking year, this time providing 29 of the 39 dormice that were released.
Hazel Ryan, Wildwood's Head of Conservation, said: "It's wonderful to make a difference and prevent these wonderful creatures going extinct. We hope that with continued effort we can help to expand their range and bring hazel dormice back to areas where they once thrived."
At Paignton Zoo dormice in quarantine are given toilet roll tubes, vet nurse, Kelly Elford explains: “We have the dormice in quarantine for some weeks prior to release. The toilet roll tubes are just the right size for the animals to sleep in and are easily disposed of when we clean out their tanks.
“We put in wood shavings, hay, leafy branches and a toilet roll tube. Some dormice pull hay into the tube and sleep there – some ignore them completely, but at least they have the option. This is a really useful – and very unusual - way to recycle old cardboard!”
The dormice will be put into soft release cages in woodland managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and looked after by local volunteers, then a small opening will be made to allow them to explore the woodland and learn where to find food and safe places to nest. It is hoped that this latest release group will eventually link up with the group released last year in a nearby area.
Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer at PTES said: “Since the first reintroduction took place in 1993, more than 900 dormice have been released across 12 English counties which is helping to create dormouse ‘strongholds’ in counties where they have sadly become extinct.
“Once released, the captive-bred dormice, and any future offspring, will be monitored to see how they’re faring. This, combined with ongoing sympathetic woodland management, should help ensure the successful establishment of this new population in a woodland which was once part of their former range. By coordinating annual releases, we hope to bring this charismatic species back from the brink.”
Click here to see a video of rescued baby dormice that formed part of this year's reintroduction.
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