Oxfordshire Dormouse Project

Sponsored by Toe2

Dormouse box (by Pete Newbold)

One of Oxfordshire’s most elusive mammals needs our help! Until the start of the millennium, very little was known about our common or hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), but it was assumed that dormice lived solely in hazel coppices and occupied a very restricted range in the south of England. Today slightly more is known about these creatures. Dormice live in a wide range of habitats, including coastal scrub, conifer plantations, motorway verges and mixed broadleaved woodland. Their diet is also more catholic than previously understood; they consume a range of foodstuffs throughout the year, from the classic hazelnut, to cherries, haws, flowers, pollen and insects. It has even been suggested that they may take eggs or very young fledglings but as yet this remains unconfirmed.

Even with our increased knowledge of this species and on-going research pushing the boundaries yet further, the dormouse remains at risk from threats including climate change, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and disturbance. Within Oxfordshire there were very few records of dormice. At the start of the project it wasn't known whether this was a result of lack of survey effort or from a low population.

Dormouse box in one of the monitoring woodlands (by Pete Newbold)

The aims of the Oxfordshire Dormouse Project were threefold:

  • To collect records of dormouse distribution, presence and absence throughout the county;

  • To raise awareness of dormice, encourage community involvement of all ages in surveying with licenced personnel, and to encourage the public to conduct nut-hunts of their own, submitting any nuts to us for confirmation of species; and

  • To encourage land owners to manage their land appropriately for dormice.

 

Summer nest of a dormouse (by Pete Newbold)
Winter nest of a dormouse (by Pete Newbold)
Dormouse in the hand (by Pete Newbold)

A threefold plan was carried out to fulfil these aims:

  • We installed dormouse tubes in woodlands across the county - the 16 woodlands identified above all agreed access for this project. We installed 100 tubes in the optimum habitat of each woodland and surveyed them every month during the dormouse’s active period: May to November, following standard protocol.  

 

  • We have given talks to a wide range of audiences, attended public events (including the Oxford Festival of Nature and Oxfordshire Goes Wild) and provided articles and press releases to the local media to raise people’s awareness of the dormice and encourage people to get involved with the surveying. We ran two nut-hunt training events to teach people how to undertake nut hunts for dormice (an easy way for surveyors of all ages and abilities to collect dormouse records), and ran a dormouse ecology training session with the Peoples’ Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). We have already featured in the Oxford Times and on BBC Radio Oxford discussing dormouse records in the county and our proposed project; and

  • We have provided advice for landowners on how to manage their woodlands and hedgerows for dormice and how to reduce the impact of their current management operations. 

The Project was in the Oxford Mail on 29 July 2015! Check out the article Here!

 

The 16 sites surveyed in 2015 are detailed in the table below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Results of the Study

Through the project dormouse presence was confirmed in three areas where no records had previously been recorded, or had not been recorded for over ten years. These were Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, Withymead Nature Reserve and Warren Bank Nature Reserve. 
Dormice are assumed to be likely absent in the remaining sites. 

© 2019 by The Oxfordshire Mammal Group.

Summer nest of a dormouse (by Pete Newbold)