Ecosulis recently donated 500 dormouse tubes to the Somerset Wildlife Trust, which were previously used on one of our large infrastructure projects. The tubes will be used within dormouse monitoring schemes and other initiatives by the trust. Monitoring works are undertaken to provide an indication of population size and the health of dormouse populations in Somerset and the south west.
Dormice are Natural England’s species of the month. The dormouse Species Recovery Programme was initiated in the early 1990s after a considerable decline in dormouse populations. Dormice have since been successfully reintroduced to Nottinghamshire as part of a nationwide programme to enhance the population of this species. This year marks the 19th dormouse reintroduction by PTES, with more than 720 dormice released across 11 English counties over the last 20 years.
Hazel (or common) dormice have a patchy distribution in England. They are more widespread in southern counties, with very few populations north of the Midlands. Dormice have declined largely as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. They are protected under both the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Two survey techniques can be used to establish the presence or likely absence of dormice. Hazelnut searches can be undertaken, which includes searching for hazelnuts gnawed by dormice. The second technique includes setting out dormouse nest tubes within suitable habitat, and monitoring these tubes for evidence of dormice. These surveys can only be undertaken between April and October.
"Somerset Wildlife Trust's Living Landscape team and Somerset Mammal Group are both extremely grateful to Ecosulis for this generous donation. There are a number of woods which we have been wanting to survey to determine whether dormice are inhabiting them, and now that we have these survey tubes we can organise a number of volunteer groups to carry out surveys for the next several years. This will greatly improve our knowledge of the distribution of an important species, which in turn will help to inform woodland management practices and to target habitat restoration work. As woodland specialists, this arboreal species can tell us a lot about the health of woodlands, and how easy it is for individuals to move from one woodland habitat to the next, and if populations are in danger of becoming isolated. SWT's Mendip Hills Living Landscape team will be assessing the connectivity of wildlife habitats over the next several years, using innovative computer models to map ecological networks. This mapping work can now start to be verified on the ground, using key indicator species of woodland connectivity such as the dormouse. This donation of survey tubes will be especially useful in looking at the fragmented landscape of East and West Mendip where SWT is collaborating with the quarry industry to target restoration work".
Lila Morris, Mendip Habitat Surveyor & Data Officer, Somerset Wildlife Trust