2011: National Dormice Monitoring Project
People's Trust for Endangered Species, Bedfordshire Dormouse Group (now Beds Mammal Group).
The National Dormouse Monitoring Project has been running for the past 22 years and has several hundred monitors responsible for organising box checks throughout the year at over 200 sites across the UK.
Hazel Dormice or Muscardinus avellanarius, are one of the most vulnerable mammals in the UK, due to their habitat requirements, and those habitats being in decline, and poorly managed for wildlife.
Preferring deciduous woodland habitat, making tight nests from stripped Hazel bark, mosses and leaves and feeding on a range of fruits, flowers, leaves the dormouse can hibernate for up to 7 months of the year, there is limited opportunity for monitoring between April/May to October/November dependant on weather conditions.
Listed as a UK BAP species and in Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, due to the serious decline of the UK population the main objectives of the programme is to gather vital information on the Dormouse to determine ways to conserve it. This has already been achieved in the last decade or so, by understanding its habitat requirements more, and successfully managing woodland for them.
Hazel Dormice are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, under schedule 5, making it an offence to disturb, injure, kill, sell, buy or otherwise keep a dormouse without a license granted by Natural England.
To erect a minimum of 50 nesting boxes in suitable woodland habitat for purposes of monitoring dormice.
To protect nest sites and manage woodland with wildlife in mind.
To monitor boxes once a month between the 15th and 25th in the morning.
To establish a population estimation.
To sex, weigh, and health check all dormice using boxes.
For me personally to gain experience of handling, following procedures and gathering scientific data for conservation and to gain a license.
To submit useful records to the NDMP for conservation.
Having assigned myself to a particular site, where 13 boxes were in place, we erected a further 17 boxes to take the site up to 30 (still short of the national requirements but all the small site has room for at present).
A lot of work was carried out over winter, with coppicing of large monoculture areas of woodland, mainly Hawthorn, and planting of Hazel and Honeysuckle.
Expanding box range, and making plans to expand woodland through planting over next five years.
I joined the Bedfordshire Dormouse Group and managed to visit and monitor many dormouse sites across Kent, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and handled dormice at all life stages and in torpor.
I applied for, and was awarded my dormouse license from Natural England!
Having renewed my license for each season I now help to monitor 3 seperate woodlands in Bedfordshire.