RARE hazel dormice are being given another chance to set up home in Warwickshire.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, together with wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and others, has released 20 breeding pairs of the endangered dormice into an undisclosed woodland just south of Coventry.
It follows two previous successful dormice reintroductions in the county – near Wappenbury as part of the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme, and in private woodland south of Birmingham.
Hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, and populations are thought to have fallen by a third since 2000. Loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat, as well as changes to traditional countryside management, are all factors in the decline.
Chris Redstall, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme manager said: “This year’s woodland has been chosen as it is well-managed with a mixture of mature and coppiced woodland, which is the perfect habitat for hazel dormice.
“This, combined with ongoing sympathetic woodland management and a drive to improve surrounding hedgerow links, should help ensure the successful establishment of this new population.
“All the dormice released, as well as any future offspring, will be carefully monitored to see how they’re faring.”
Ian White, dormouse officer at PTES, said its reintroduction programme had been running since 1993.
He added: “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.”
All dormice released were captive bred by members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Prior to release, the dormice underwent a nine-week quarantine period during which vets conducted a full health examination to check they were in tip-top condition and reduce the risk of them passing on non-native diseases.