Animals tend to hibernate to conserve energy until conditions are suitable. Today we follow the story of the Dormouse.
If you have read our blog on the dormouse you will know how sleepy this species is! Indeed the etymology of its name is associated with the French dormir and Latin dormire which means ‘to sleep’ and mouse. These little creatures can stay in a state of torpor for up to six or seven months between October and May! To prepare for this marathon sleep the dormouse works to increase their body weight by 40%.
Oddly the dormouse abandon the safety of the trees and over-winter on the forest floor where humidity is high and temperatures are stable. Locations often include small shallows or depressions, leaf litter, log piles, hedgerow root bases, and wet moss. This selection of sleeping quarters seems counterintuitive as they may be at risk of predators or prone to being disturbed or unintentionally harmed by human activities, from walking to woodland management. Indeed a study by Juskaitis (1999) demonstrated a mortality rate of up to 72% during hibernation. This finding was ascribed to predation by the red fox and the wild boar.
Unfortunately, numbers of this species are dropping. In order to support dormice PTES is funding Leo Gubert to investigate where they hibernate (using searches, radio tracking, metal detection, and sniffer dog Charlie Brown), their resource requirements and to define advice on how to undertake woodland activities whilst being sensitive to the potential presence of dormice. Some findings are presented below.
What are the best ways to help support these species?
So, as is stated by Leo you should
- Search for nests close to the time of the proposed works (within 24 hours). This is because they can move nests during hibernation.
- Photograph and note the features and surroundings of the nest site if it needs to be relocated.
- Use this information to find an appropriate alternative within 50m and transfer the nest with as little handling as possible. Mark and isolate the new site.
If you are interested in tracking dormice you can do this effectively with the Dormouse Footprint Tracking Tunnel which was developed by the PTES as a new survey method. If you do intend to purchase these 10p is donated to the PTES for every tunnel sold.
This method of detection is quite successful, with a probability of 97.5%, if 50 tunnels are deployed for three months between May and October. It is an advantageous method because:
- Non-invasive and does not require a license
- Determines presence or absence
- Can be used in populated areas without the risk of dormice being disturbed by the curious.
Further interesting information
- Woodland Trust information - link
- The Wildlife Trust information - link
- PTES information - link
- Countrylife article - link
- Countryfile article - link