The Common or Hazel Dormouse is an arboreal species, spending most of its life in the canopy of woodland trees or in amongst hedgerows. In addition to this dormice spend up to 7 months of the year in hibernation and live in low population densities, making this species very difficult to see and so often overlooked. The dormouse is most commonly found in deciduous woodland (especially hazel coppice), thick species rich hedgerows and dense scrub.
Over the past 100 years, this species has declined dramatically in numbers and distribution, at one point being declared extinct in up to 8 counties. Its decline is thought to be the result of a combination of habitat loss and changes in woodland and hedgerow management.
Dormice and the Law:
The Hazel Dormouse is a European protected species and in the UK is afforded protected status under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Under these pieces of legislation it is an offence to:
Intentionally kill, injure or take a dormouse.
Possess or control any live or dead specimen or anything derived from a dormouse (unless it can be shown to have been legally acquired).
Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection by a dormouse.
Intentionally or recklessly disturb a dormouse while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for that purpose.
Keep, transport, sell or exchange, or offer for sale or exchange a live or dead dormouse or any part of a dormouse.
Therefore, if dormice are present at a site the appropriate Natural England Licence must be obtained and mitigation put in place. This mitigation must ensure the continued favourable conservation status of the species.
There are a number of techniques commonly used for surveying this species, some being more effective than others. At JCA a combination of two survey techniques are used to determine presence/absence of this species, these being Nest Tube and Nut searches.
Nut searches can only be conducted where hazel is present. These searches reveal quick results and are most effective during winter. Each rodent species will open a hazel nut in a slightly different way, so by carefully inspecting hazel nut shells it is possible to indentify whether there are dormice in the area.
Nest Tube searches are generally inexpensive compared with other techniques and are suitable for development sites. Tubes should be erected early in the year, as colonisation can take several months (if dormice are present). Tubes should then be checked between April and October for dormice nests.
Should Dormice be found at a site, JCA can provide advice on how best to proceed with development.
Doormouse survey timeline
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