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Rare hazel dormice reintroduced to Warwickshire woodland

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and others released 20 breeding pairs or trios of rare hazel dormice into an undisclosed woodland location just south of Coventry, Warwickshire, on Thursday 14 June.

This 2018 reintroduction follows two previous dormice reintroductions in the county which have been a success. The latest reintroduction is the second phase of a wider landscape project, which aims to one day connect two separate dormouse populations, creating a dormouse stronghold in Warwickshire.

Reintroductions play an important role in the long-term conservation of this endangered species and are part of the Species Recovery Programme supported by Natural England. Hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000. Loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat and changes to traditional countryside management practices are all contributing factors.

Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer at PTES explains: “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.”

PTES and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust have been working closely with Natural England, Zoological Society of London, Paignton Zoo and the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group prior to release. The dormice had to undergo a nine-week quarantine with full health checks to ensure they were in top condition and to reduce the risk of passing on non-native diseases.

Once all dormice had been given the green light, they were carefully transported to the reintroduction location, where staff from PTES, Natural England and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, along with numerous volunteers, were on hand to ensure the smooth transition from travel nest-boxes to their new woodland accommodation.

After the reintroduction day, the dormice spend the next 10 days in mesh cages, which are connected to trees and contain natural foliage, food and water to help the dormice become acclimatised to their new surroundings. After this, the mesh doors of the cages are opened, leaving the dormice free to explore their new home.

To follow news on the latest hazel dormouse reintroduction go to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species website.

Photo credit: Claire Pengelly

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