A group of volunteers from Fingle Woods is about to embark on their second year learning to monitor one of the wood's most charismatic and elusive residents; the dormouse.
With their golden-brown fur and big black eyes, hazel dormice are arguably one of the most endearing species in the UK. Changes in woodland management, increased fragmentation and the loss of hedgerows has, however, reduced their habitat, meaning this once widespread species is now rare and vulnerable to extinction.
They are a protected species in the UK and regarded as a priority for conservation action.
Monitoring dormice at Fingle
Each month, between May and October, these volunteers will accompany an experienced dormouse ecologist as he checks a series of 50 nest boxes (similar to bird boxes but with entrance holes at the back of the box facing the tree) strategically positioned in parts of Fingle Woods. The trainees learn how to carefully handle and record information about each dormouse found.
A licence is required to handle and monitor dormice and it is this level one licence that a small group of Fingle volunteers have been working towards.
Once they have their handling licence, the volunteers will be able to survey the nest boxes around Fingle Woods unaccompanied (enabling us to increase the number of boxes we survey). Their results will provide an indication of the numbers of dormice present in each part of the wood and their needs can be considered when planning the next action to be taken in the woodland restoration programme.
National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP)
This is part of a nationwide scheme, the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP). The scheme has been running for the last 25 years and currently collates records from around 400 monitoring sites across the UK. With a national repository of information, any population trends or shifts in behaviour can be spotted and targeted-action can be taken to protect habitats and conserve the species.
At a local level, dormice are a good indicator of habitat quality and plant and animal diversity so will provide one way for us to measure the progress of our ancient woodland restoration.
Protect dormice species by adding your voice to our campaign and protect their ancient woodland habitat