The National Trust is today calling on people to assist struggling dormice in a bid to boost numbers of the endangered species.
While dormice are typically found in rural areas, there are a few simple things people can do to encourage the elusive animals, particularly if they live near a wood.
Allowing bramble to grow, leaving ivy on trees and piling up logs can all help, according to the conservation charity, which is also asking people to report any sightings.
Hazel dormice populations in the UK have fallen by around a third since 2000 and are now extinct in 17 English counties.
Habitat loss is believed to be the main reason for the decline, but increasingly warm winters are also having a negative effect, with dormice awaking from hibernation too early and hazel trees, their main habitat, showing signs of stress.
Rangers on the wooded Cotehele Estate in Cornwall found this sleepy pair during their monthly monitoring check of the local dormouse population, conducted each year from April to October.
George Holmes, Lead Ranger at the National Trust, said: “Finding a snoring dormouse inside a nesting box is an amazing feeling – they’re such gentle and charismatic creatures.
“Sadly, they’re so rare now that most people will never see one in their lifetime.
“We’re working hard to improve numbers on the estate. Dormice are a key indicator species of the health of a woodland – so if the dormice are thriving, chances are other wildlife is too.
“Everyone can do their bit to encourage dormice and other wildlife, whether it’s by letting the ivy grow on a tree in your garden or stacking up a pile of logs as shelter.”
A special licence is required to handle these rare animals, which were found curled up in a semi-hibernating state inside one of 50 wooden nesting boxes installed by the Trust on the Cornish estate.
As well as counting the mice, rangers check their age, sex, weight and breathing condition, before submitting the information into a national database.
Dormice are arboreal, preferring to live high in the tree canopy and spending as little time as possible on the ground. On the Cotehele Estate, rangers manage the woodland by coppicing, ensuring the tops of the trees touch to allow dormice to move freely through the woodland without crossing fields and roads.
Sightings of dormice should be reported via the People’s Trust for Endangered Species website: https://surveydata.ptes.org/dormouse-database
Header image: National Trust/George Holmes.