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Branching out – dormouse on the march in Peterborough wood

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Bramble not only provides the Dormouse with berries, but also enables it to travel across it's territory within the safety of it's prickly foliage

Rare dormice are thriving in a Peterborough wood  - and now a local farmer is helping then to branch out even further afield.

The Forestry Commission say that 27 dormice were discovered in boxes in Bedford Purlieus Wood, near Peterborough, during the final monthly check of the year in October. Adults, juveniles and babies were recorded, most in good health and with plenty of fat to see them through their winter hibernation. 

The checks – done by rangers and volunteers – have been crucial in charting the progress of the endangered mammals since they were released in the 200 hectare  beauty spot in 2001 after becoming extinct locally.

Cheryl Joyce, Forestry Commission ranger, said:

“Finding so many dormice in our final check is great news.  But what has really excited us is that some animals were found a long way from the original release point, adding to our hopes that they might soon spread into the surrounding countryside. That really is the next major project landmark. It just shows what sensitive habitat management allied to the passion of volunteers can achieve.”

Spurred on by the dormouse revival, Clive Fuller from 1150 acre Cross Leys Farm, is working with Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust and volunteers to erect boxes in hedgerows in his fields bordering Bedford Purlieus Wood.

Hedgerows are the key to encouraging the creature to establish roots in nearby woods – they provide ‘wildlife motorways’ offering rest stops, food and protection from predators when dormice go on their travels.

Clive explained:

“Our tall hedgerows have been carefully managed as we have been in stewardship schemes and provide vital wildlife havens. The Wildlife Trust asked me to help by putting up boxes in two long stretches of hedgerows running in different directions from Bedford Purlieus Wood. I’m only too delighted to help.  The dormice have done well and I would love for them to spread through the area.”

The long term decline of the dormouse is thought to be due to habitat loss and population fragmentation over many years.

The original reintroduction at Bedford Purlieus was organised by Natural England and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species working in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Nearly 200 dormice boxes have been erected in the wood.  Because many of the creatures build their own natural nests in trees and shrubs, surveys provide a limited, but important snapshot of a much bigger dormouse colony in Bedford Purlieus. 

The wood was declared a National Nature Reserve in 2000 in recognition of its importance as a species-rich semi-natural ancient woodland.


Note to editor

  1. The head and body of a dormouse can be up to 85 mm long and they also have a thick bushy tail. The creature is nocturnal and hibernates from October to April. They are good climbers and spend most of their time in the tree canopy. One or two litters are born each year. They are protected by law and may not be killed, injured, disturbed in their nests, collected, trapped or sold except under licence. A loss of suitable habitat in Britain has led to a steep decline in their numbers.

  2. Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.