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Boosting dormice populations on the Somerset/Devon border

January 16, 2018 HannahMaben Company NewsDevonEcologistSomersetUncategorized

In December 2015 Seasons Ecology approached the Woodland Trust to offer to donate, install and monitor dormouse boxes at a local Woodland Trust site. Cross Land is a millennium wood on the Somerset /Devon border planted with native broadleaf trees and shrubs by the Woodland Trust in 1998.

With the help of the Woodland Trust’s Site Manager and Blackdown Hills Natural Futures project in February 2016 50 dormouse boxes were installed across the woodland and the site was registered with the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) National Dormouse Monitoring Programme. Monitoring commenced in May 2016 and has been ongoing throughout 2016 and 2017.

Hopes of finding dormice were high having found some hazel nuts showing likely characteristic signs of dormice presence in both the southern and northern sections of woodland whilst installing the dormouse boxes. However, no dormice were recorded during the initial box check in May 2016. Much to everyone’s delight during checks in September 2016 seven dormice, including juveniles, were recorded within boxes located in the southern section of woodland with numbers increasing to ten in October 2016. Dormice were first recorded in boxes in the northern section of woodland in May 2017 with juveniles first recorded in this section in June 2017. The number of dormice have steadily increased with a staggering 37 dormice and a further 16 empty nests recorded across the site in October 2017!

The monitoring has proven that dormice are able to colonise and successfully breed within carefully planned new plantations relatively quickly. Appropriate planting with connectivity to other mature habitats and a wider network of suitable habitat are likely key factors in the successful colonisation of Cross Land. As well as providing an important monitoring method the results show the value of proving wooden boxes in the conservation of dormice by boosting their populations when natural nesting sites are scarce. The lack of alternative nest sites is considered a likely reason for the boxes having been proved so unbelievably popular.

The site has provided a great opportunity for a range of people to learn about and see this species in the wild with local Woodland Trust volunteers, children and ecologists all getting involved and assisting with the monitoring. Seasons Ecology’s Hannah Maben will continue to lead the dormouse nest box monitoring and has registered the site with the Somerset Mammal Group with the aim of using the site as a training resource for people interested in dormouse ecology.

DevondormouseDormouse surveyEcologistSomersetwoodlands

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Seasons Ecology Limited Directors: K M Hayward MCIEEM & H M Maben MCIEEM
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