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Dormice sleeping in a Monmouthshire woodland can look forward to a pleasant surprise when they wake from their hibernation in the spring after Forestry Commission Wales transformed their home as they slept.
Foresters have been busy giving Slade woodland, near Magor and Rogiet, a makeover to create the ideal habitat for the tiny creatures, which are so rare they are protected by law.
Conifer areas of the Welsh Government woodland have been thinned and broadleaf trees retained to improve its structure and create small open spaces to allow in light and encourage the growth of new trees and more shrubs, in which the dormouse feeds.
The work was carried out under a dormouse licence and will also improve the biodiversity of the 148-hectare woodland, which is a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS), for other animals and birds.
Dormice are generally found in broadleaved woodland with a thick shrub layer. They are easily recognisable by their small size, bright golden colour, large eyes and bushy tail, but there are fewer than 30,000 left in the UK.
The work was carefully timed to take place while the dormice were still active and able to move away easier, and any heavily shrubbed areas were avoided during the latter stages of the operation, as this is where the dormice would be hibernating.
Forestry Commission Wales conservation manager Rosalind Codd said, “It was essential to carry out the work during times of least impact on the dormice, so the areas most favoured by them had to be completed first.
“Thinning at this time doesn't mitigate all damage, but it reduces disturbance greatly as once dormice are hibernating we can't find them and they won't move, making them very vulnerable during any work.”
Retaining overhead “corridors” in the woodland canopy was also important, since dormice rarely travel on the ground. During the day, they sleep in small nests they have made themselves and spend the night foraging among the treetops.
During the spring, dormice eat flowers and pollen, then in summer they move on to fruit and in autumn they eat nuts, especially hazelnuts.
Other measures designed to protect and improve the dormouse habitat included stacking the felled trees, which will be used for stakes and biomass, in sparsely vegetated areas to minimise disturbance and retaining broadleaf trees, especially those with honeysuckle and ivy.
“Honeysuckle is important for dormice as the flowers provide food at a time when few other things are available. They also use the shredded bark as nesting material. Honeysuckle is also important for other species such as butterflies and moths,” said Rosalind.
“Retaining plants such as ivy is important for the bats using the woodland, and also dormice use ivy as a summer nesting site and it’s a good source of insects for dormice.”
The thinning operation took several months to complete and more thinning will continue on a regular basis to improve the woodland’s biodiversity and to restore it back to its native broadleaf state.
Caption: A dormouse similar to those in Slade woodland, whose home has received a makeover.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
Dormice live in woodland and are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
For more information on the work carried out in Slade woodland, contact Forestry Commission Wales community ranger Emma Louise Felkin on 02920 886863, mobile 07824 857541, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or Forestry Commission Wales conservation manager Rosalind Codd on 0300 068 0246, email Rosalind.email@example.com
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Visit News at FC Wales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org