Dormice in decline
Woodland is a key habitat for the species and dormice spend most of their time among tree branches, rarely venturing down to the ground. Ancient woods that are managed using traditional practices such as coppicing and selective felling are ideal for the rodents, as this creates a diverse habitat that provides both food and shelter.
Sadly, the decline of such practices and the loss of woodland in general – 50% of ancient woodland has been lost or damaged since the 1930s – has had a disastrous impact on dormice numbers.
The species is now found in only 32 English counties, down from 49 in 1885, and the population is thought to have dropped by 38% since 2000 alone.
Dormice numbers are highest in southern England, with lower numbers in the Midlands and Wales and just a handful of scattered populations in the north.
The woodland we have left is increasingly fragmented, causing further problems for dormice. The loss of connecting features such as hedgerows means the small rodents have no way to travel between woods, as they will not cover large distances on the ground. As a result, individual populations become isolated, lose genetic diversity and ultimately become more vulnerable to extinction.