This week on the estate: dormouse boxes

This week on the estate: dormouse boxes

We’ve been putting up dormouse boxes in various places around the Estate this week. Dormice are known to be living nearby and we’re hopeful that we may have a population living here. The boxes will help us find out if we do and, if so, where they are. ⠀

The hazel or common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is the UK’s only native dormouse. A member of the rodent family, dormice were once a common species in the British countryside but, due to habitat loss, they’ve now declined by an estimated 40%. With the loss of much of our ancient woodlands and changes in its management, many areas are now unsuitable for dormice. The loss of hedgerows is also likely to be an important factor as many woodland areas are no longer linked, meaning populations are unable to spread to new areas. ⠀

This is especially relevant to dormice as they rely on a continuous canopy to travel – they rarely go to ground level. Dormice spend most of their time sleeping in order to conserve as much energy as possible. They usually only come out for a few hours at night during warmer months, to feed in the canopy on nuts, berries and insects. They need to feed and put on weight quickly to see them through winter hibernation so, in autumn, hazelnuts, blackberries and other fruit and nuts are a very important food source. ⠀

We put our boxes in an area with lots of bramble, elder and mature oak trees, as well as hazel and honeysuckle. In summer, the dormice like to feed on the flowers’ nectar and pollen due to their high sugar content for energy. ⠀

Through maintaining and managing our woodlands to allow dormice to thrive, we will also benefit many other invertebrate, bird, mammal and plant species. By careful thinning and coppicing, we can allow light to reach the woodland floor and this, in turn, goes on to create an under canopy in which dormice and many other species can thrive in a diverse and valuable habitat. ⠀

Dormice could be a helpful indicator for us to gauge how successful our efforts with rewilding projects and woodland management on the Estate are proving to be.

The Belmont Estate