Wildwood Trust is celebrating the birth of more dormice this week after a successful reintroduction earlier this month to a secret site in Warwickshire. Recent reports show the dormouse to be one of Britain’s rarest mammals and could be threatened with extinction as numbers have plummeted by 70% in the last 20 years.
Video footage taken this week shows a mother dormouse and one of the new-born young nuzzling & investigating a new nest box as well as footage taken as Wildwood Trust’s expert team monitored the health of the new arrivals.
The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) was once widespread across England and Wales. But with the loss of woodland and hedgerows populations have rapidly declined.
Wildwood Trust is the UK’s leading charity in captive breeding dormice for release into the wild to help to combat this decline and have bred hundreds of dormice over the 15 years
The Wildwood team is celebrated reintroducing 18 of our dormice, nearly half the total number released, to a secret woodland site in Warwickshire as part of a continuing project to help protect the species from extinction.
Working alongside other conservation organisations, including the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Paignton Zoo, Natural England and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, this recent release is the latest in the scheme which aims to increase dormice numbers in areas of the UK where the species is in decline. It is hoped that this latest release group will eventually link up with another population released last year in a nearby area.
Each year Wildwood supplies captive-bred dormice for the release programme and, as studbook holder for the species, selects and pairs up the animals for release, thus ensuring the strongest genetic mix for future generations.
To ensure the dormice are successful, the woodland is carefully managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to provide suitable food and shelter, whilst the animals are introduced via a "soft-release" system. Initially they are housed in cages with adequate food and water before the cage door is opened after a few days. The cage is topped up with supplies allowing the dormice to come and go at will without having to fend for themselves immediately after release. This supports the dormice as they become integrated into the area and gives them the best possible start in their new woodland home.
Hazel Ryan, Wildwood's Senior Conservation Officer & leading dormouse expert said "Our new babies are looking very healthy and will form a major part of next year’s reintroduction, helping prevent further decline or even extinction. We hope that with continued releases and careful habitat management we can help to expand their range and bring hazel dormice back to areas where they once thrived."