Essex Biodiversity Project
Identification - the dormouse has golden orange/brown fur, a furry tail and big black eyes. They are quite small being about 140mm in total length (including the tail) and weigh up to 20g in the summer but can fatten up to double (40g) before hibernation. Dormice are tree dwelling rodents and they are very rarely seen. (English Nature 2001). A licence is needed to handle dormice and survey nest boxes.
General ecology - Within the British Isles the dormouse is mainly restricted to England with a few sites in Wales. It lives mainly in Ancient woodland with a good variety of trees and shrubs - Hazel, bramble, honeysuckle and oak are important food sources. They feed on nuts, fruit, insects and flowers. Dormice are nocturnal - they sleep in nests during the day and are active at night and they hibernate from October to April. Dormice occasionally have two litters of up to four young a year. They can live up to five years. Loss of habitat and change in management is their main threat.
Surveying tips - The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species leads on the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme which is a national survey and looks for hazelnuts with signs of dormice teeth marks. This can be done in the autumn and winter. This survey can be done by anyone and requires little experience. Surveying by the box method needs a licence but dormouse tubes can be deployed very easily in a woodland and you can then look for the distinctive characteristics of the nest in the tube without the need for a licence. For further information contact Mark Iley
Essex and Suffolk Dormouse Project - tube survey
We have collaborated with the Essex & Suffolk Dormouse Project over the past few years to undertake a county-wide survey of potential dormouse sites using survey 'tubes'. This project will give an accurate picture of dormouse distribution throughout Essex. The project involves training volunteer surveyors.
Dormouse site box monitoring
There are a suite of sites throughout Essex provided with dormouse nest boxes which are regularly monitored. The results are collated and fed into the national Dormouse Monitoring Scheme. There is a training and protected species lincensing programme in place.
Further information - For further information see the People's Trust for Endangered Species, with their page on the Hazel Dormouse with links to a distribution map for Essex.