Devon and Cornwall joint Dormouse Meeting 21st Feb 2017

 

 

Dormice are protected in this country and are a priority for conservation. They have declined by at least a third since 2000 (although this could be as high as a 70% decline between the years 2003 and 2014). So said Ian White, the dormouse officer for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), who gave a fascinating talk about the hazel dormouse at the joint Devon and Cornwall dormouse meeting on Tuesday. Both Colin and I attended the meeting where we heard from a number of speakers including Ian White from PTES and students at Exeter University. The number of projects currently being carried out on dormice show that there is still a lot to learn about this species. From competition for resources with nesting birds to how a population is affected by habitat disturbance (both subjects of 2 current research projects).

An indisputable fact is that dormice are declining in the UK. This is probably due to a combination of factors including the loss of habitat and climate change. It seems that the decline is not a recent phenomenon, but that a reduction in range and number of dormice has actually been noted for over a century. Dormice have always been more prevalent in the south of the UK, but studies show that their range in the north is retreating, with fewer dormice, or even evidence of their presence, being found during searches in the northern counties.

PTES is running a scheme aimed at slowing down the decline. This includes the national dormouse monitoring project (NDMP), which has been running for over 20 years now. This project is a great example of citizen science as all sites are run by volunteers. The number of sites and new boxes in the NDMP increases each year and PTES is gathering a wealth of really important data on the hazel dormouse.

 

 

Dormouse Surveys

 

 

There was a discussion over whether the current survey guidelines need updating. When surveying, consultants use a points system to see how long to survey for in order to be sufficiently confident that dormice are not present on a site. The points system is based on how likely it is to find evidence in each active month (a higher score for the most likely months). Data analysis on the results from the NDMP surveys suggests that more points should be given to months later in the year. Is it time to update survey guidelines? The current survey guidelines are found in the Dormouse Conservation Handbook.

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Mitigation

A number of projects have made use of wildlife ‘bridges’ for dormouse mitigation, these have consisted of rope bridges, mesh tubes and various other methods of providing connectivity between two areas populated by dormice. These bridges have been installed at various locations in the UK as mitigation measures, at great expense. However, none of the designs have conclusively been proven to be used by wild dormice.

An experimental bridge built in Japan some years ago did show success. This was replicated by PTES in 2015 on the Isle of Wight. The idea is to find a way of producing a bridge that is easy to install, doesn’t cost a fortune and actually works. They also seem to be having some success. You can watch Ian talking about this on the BBC HERE.

All-in-all it was a very informative day. The local news was not promising, with a decline in dormouse numbers across many of the sites in the southwest. Many consultants (including myself) are involved in the PTES dormouse monitoring project. We will keep our fingers crossed that this year proves to be better for this charismatic species.

 

We’d like to thank the organisers of this event. It was a great day (and the cake was fantastic!)

 

 

Do you need an ecologist with a Natural England Dormouse Licence? Call 01392 366512 to see how we can help. Or are you working on gaining your dormouse licence? Have you looked at our dormouse training course? Find details HERE.

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Exeter: 01392 366512

Bristol: Tel: 0117 923 2768 / Mobile: 07971 994324

Guildford: Tel: 01483 382821 / Mobile: 07443 652988

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