Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Dormice in Britain 'vulnerable to extinction'

By Claire Marshall BBC environment correspondent
9 September 2016

Britain's native dormouse has declined by more than a third since the year 2000 according to a new report by wildlife charity, the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
The State of Britain's Dormice report also shows that hazel dormice are extinct in 17 English counties.

The researchers assessed more than 100,000 records gathered from across the UK over 25 years.

The report says the dormouse is now vulnerable to extinction in Britain.

Since 1998 trained volunteers around the country have been gathering data on the tiny hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). It is one of the longest-running small mammal monitoring projects in the world.

The creatures live mainly in hedgerows and woods, weaving ball-like nests in the undergrowth from bark in the summer and hibernating on or near the ground in winter between October and May.

They are extremely tricky to locate - a populated area the size of two football fields will only contain four dormice. A giveaway sign is a nibbled hazelnut.

'Dramatic decline'
Today's report shows that they are more difficult to find than ever. Over the last 16 years, the population has declined by almost 40%. Populations are now restricted to the Welsh borders and southern England. They have never been recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Ian White is dormouse officer at the People's Trust for Endangered Species. He has been monitoring the species for the last decade and describes the decline as "dramatic". He says: "Dormice have been around for 40 million years, but their future in Britain is now precarious and there's a pressing need for action to ensure their long-term survival."

In 1885, dormice were present in 49 English counties; today, they're known in 32 - excluding those counties where they have been reintroduced.

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