Last modified: 07 August 2012
Dormice are nocturnal so sightings are pretty rare.
Image: Liz Cutting
Cuddled up in a tiny ball, fast asleep, with its furry tail tucked up into its body, the dormouse is pretty much as cute as it gets.
Made famous by children’s stories, such as Alice in Wonderland, these gorgeous little mammals were once widespread throughout the country. Sadly though, due to loss of habitat, their numbers have declined nationally, and there are only very small, known populations of them left in the North West.
Dormice are nocturnal so sightings are pretty rare. They prefer to live in hedgerows and ancient woodlands that have been managed by coppicing, both habitats that have largely been lost. However, there is hope, as they have also been spotted in more urban areas linked to woodlands by hedgerows, and even on people's bird nut feeders!
The Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has large areas of possibly suitable habitat for dormice but no recent records. The hunt is now on to find out if dormice really have disappeared from the area.
A survey is being co-ordinated by a partnership of local interested parties including the RSPB, Arnside and Silverdale AONB, National Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England, to try and find evidence of any remaining dormouse populations. This would be unachievable without help from volunteers from a variety of wildlife and community groups.
Dormice are nocturnal so sightings are pretty rare
However, survey work can only go so far. Richard Miller, Assistant Warden at Leighton Moss, and one of the partnership co-ordinators said “We need assistance from the general public to find out if there are any dormice left in the AONB. Have you seen a golden mouse with a long bushy tail? What was that suspiciously fluffy looking mouse on your bird feeder or fruit bush? Just what is that little yellow bundle the cat has brought in? Could one be nesting in your hedgerow? All these records will add together to form a picture of whether there is a remnant population somewhere in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB that is in need of help and protection.”
The dormouse is a tree dwelling mammal which rarely comes down to the ground, and spends much of its time foraging in dense woodland and hedgerows for seeds, flowers, insects and nuts. Your garden may contain dense vegetation full of hazel nuts, bramble or honeysuckle, all of which dormice love.
Richard added “Whilst we need all the help we can get in establishing whether there is a dormouse population in the area, dormice are strictly protected by law and anyone who handles them must have training and a special licence. Please do not disturb any animals.”
The partnership does welcome however, any sightings you may have had and would be extremely grateful if you could send in photos or details of what you have seen, when you saw it and where you saw it to the Arnside and Silverdale AONB office by phoning 01524 761034 or emailing email@example.com.
Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.
How you can get involved