|Illustration: Clara Prieto|
This month’s Mammal of the Month is the hazel (or common) dormouse which is no surprise as
May is usually when surveys start for this species as they are now out and about after 5 months
in hibernation. The dormouse however is not so common, even if the name suggests otherwise,
in the UK (or in fact Europe) and has been afforded European Protected Species status which
means it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb a dormouse or destroy its resting place
amongst other clauses (see Natural England website for its full legal protection information).
Under a NE licence dormouse boxes can be opened and checked and although everyone hopes
dormice will be resident, it is not always the case... these lovely dry, draught-proof (to a degree)
wooden boxes can become homes for a myriad of species; from bees to yellow-neck mice. It
does make a surveyor a little nervous when approaching a box; "Will it be a small mammal or a
box that buzzes?"
The Berkshire Mammal Group have four dormouse box sites around West Berkshire and we
have organised 16 dormouse box checks this year (4 per wood), two of which were carried out
this weekend (17/5/15) in Ashampstead Common and Moor Copse. Both are extremely
enchanting woods this time of the year with Bluebells abundant, and Dog’s Mercury about to
flower, however the Common Nettle is willing and able to sting at the slightest touch. Alas we
have yet to find a torpid dormouse curled up within its nest, but fingers and toes are crossed that
the not-so-common dormouse will appear!
In the meantime we have had pygmy shrews, wood mice, yellow-neck mice, bees (!) and blue tit
chicks ‘a’plenty resident in the boxes.. so at least some species are making good use of these
artificial nest sites.
If you want to find out more about dormice, and maybe don’t want to experience the box buzzing
scenario, we have been working with a very talented graphic designer who has produced a
dormouse infographic for us, it is extremely informative, well illustrated and deserves to be read
and shared. It is also available as a PDF available here.
If you want more information about dormice or maybe want to get involved please contact us!
Dormouse Officer BMG