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Dormice reintroduced into the Yorkshire Dales

22/10/2008 15:13:18

Dormouse. Credit Kate Merry.

35 dormice released.

October 2008. The hazel dormouse - is back in the Yorkshire Dales National Park following a successful re-introduction project. It is 100 years since the creatures were last recorded in the Park.

In a joint effort by conservation organisations to reverse a drastic population decline, 35 dormice were released into Freeholders' Wood near Aysgarth in June this year.

58 dormice counted at the end of summer
The latest peek into the nest boxes has revealed astounding success. Despite the very wet summer, 58 dormice, including well grown youngsters, were found in the 195 boxes.

Ideal habitat
Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England said: "Dormice numbers have dropped dramatically due to a decline in their ancient woodland habitat. The rich mix of coppiced hazel trees, honeysuckle and bramble in Freeholders' Wood makes it an ideal habitat for a healthy dormouse population.

"So much more can be achieved through working together and sharing our knowledge and experience. Each organisation had an essential role in this successful re-introduction".

‘We are delighted that the first nest box check has gone so well and that the dormice have been reproducing', said Laura Hurt, Conservation Officer at the People's Trust for Endangered Species. ‘This is the third reintroduction that we have done in Yorkshire and this one has all the signs of success. It is very exciting.'

Captive bred
The dormice were bred in captivity by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group and given a full bill of health before release by Paignton Zoo and the Zoological Society of London.

"By carrying out disease risk analysis and health screening we aimed to ensure that the health of these dormice and the health of the surrounding ecosystem will be protected and will be a safe haven for dormice and other species in the future" said Dr Anthony Sainsbury, Lead Veterinarian, Species Recovery Programme Health Surveillance Project, Zoological Society of London

Slow release
Staff from the People's Trust for Endangered Species and Paignton Zoo placed the dormice in mesh cages attached to hazel trees within the wood. The dormice were fed by staff and volunteers from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. After ten days, openings were made in the mesh to allow the dormice to explore.

More about Freeholders' Wood

Dormice decline
Dormice numbers have dramatically declined in most parts of the UK, mainly due to the loss and deterioration of their ancient woodland habitat. The dormouse Biodiversity Action Plan aims to return them to areas of the country where they have been lost.

Sixteen reintroductions
The reintroduction is one of sixteen in England over the last 15 years and is a collaboration between Natural England, People's Trust for Endangered Species, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group and the Zoological Society of London.


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