Posted 19th Jun 2018 by Peter Byrne
Rare hazel dormice have been reintroduced into Warwickshire woodland
Today (14th June) has seen 20 breeding pairs or trios of rare hazel dormice released into an undisclosed woodland location just south of Coventry.
Today's reintroduction follows the two previous dormice reintroductions that were carried out in the county, both of which proved to be a success. Last year's reintroduction occurred in June 2017 near Wappenbury, which was the first phase of the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme.
Now, this is the second phase of the wider landscape project, which has the aim of connecting the two separate dormouse populations, subsequently creating a dormouse stronghold in Warwickshire.
Previously, there was another reintroduction that occurred in 2009 in private woodland to the south of Birmingham.
The charismatic creatures are sadly endangered, with the State of Britain's Dormice report (published by PTES in 2016) highlighting their plight. In fact, since the end of the 19th century, hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties. The populations are believed to have dipped by a third since 2000, with a rate of decline equivalent to 55 per cent over 25 years.
A loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat, coupled with changes to traditional countryside management practices, are all factors behind this decline.
Ian White, Dormouse and Training Officer at PTES said: "Our annual reintroduction programme has been running since 1993. Since then over 900 dormice have been released into woodlands in 12 English counties where they once existed, in an effort to rebuild lost populations. This year’s reintroduction is the second phase of a wider landscape project we started in Warwickshire last year, so we hope that by returning to the same county (albeit to a different woodland) that we can connect the two populations in the future, creating a larger, self-sustaining population which we hope will help bring this species back from the brink."
Chris Redstall, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme Manager continues: "This year’s woodland has been chosen as it is well-managed with a mixture of mature and coppiced woodland, which is the perfect habitat for hazel dormice. This, combined with ongoing sympathetic woodland management and a drive to improve surrounding hedgerow links, should help ensure the successful establishment of this new population. All the dormice released today, as well as any future offspring, will be carefully monitored to see how they’re faring. We would like to thank National Lottery players and our scheme partners for their support in helping make the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme project, and this reintroduction, possible."
The reintroduction was only possible thanks to the hard work carried out by the PTES, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, ZSL, Paignton Zoo and the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group, each of which have been involved at the different stages of the reintroduction programme.
- All of the dormice that were released today are captive bred by members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group.
- Prior to being released, dormice will undergo a nine-week quarantine period at ZSL London Zoo and Paington Zoo in Devon, where they receive a thorough health examination to ensure they will be in top condition and to reduce the risk of them passing on non-native diseases.
- Once they all receive the green light, they are carefully transported to the reintroduction location, with staff and volunteers on hand to ensure there is a smooth transition from the travel nest-boxes to their new woodland accommodation.
Following the reintroduction day, they spend 10 days in mesh cages, which are connected to trees and contains natural foliage, food and water to help them acclimatise to their new surroundings. Once the mesh doors open, the dormice are free to explore their new home, with the cages eventually removed.
Image courtesy of Clare Pengelly