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Hazel dormouse

Dormice are nocturnal, with breeding males living alone and non-breeding males and females often being found nesting together outside of the breeding season.

They will usually only have 1 litter a year in the summer with 3 – 7 blind, deaf and naked young being born and living for up to 5 years.

The dormouse is listed as an UK biodiversity action plan species as it considered to be decline and extremely vulnerable.

Hazel Dormouse

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  • Largely but not exclusively arboreal animals (lives in trees and bushes)
  • Hibernates for 6 months of the year
  • Body length of 6 – 9cm and tail length of 5 – 8cm
  • Bright golden fur with thick furry tail and big black eyes

Latin name: Muscardinus avellanarius

In the garden

Dormice live in deciduous woodland and thick, overgrown hedges. It is thought that they prefer hazel coppice woodland enabling them to have a varied diet throughout the year, although dormice have been found in the other scrub and even in conifer plantations!

It is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1988 to intentionally kill, injure or cause disturbance to dormice and you need a licence from Natural England to study or handle them, or if you want to undertake work in a dormouse hot spot.

Dormice like eating flowers, fruit, hazelnuts, sweet chestnut and beechmast. They will also consume aphids and other small insects.

The most reliable signs of dormice being present include a distinctive nest, which resemble small birds nests, like wrens. The stripping of bark from honeysuckle bushes also indicate dormice presence as does a characteristic way of opening hazelnuts which includes a neat round hole on one side of the nut (not leaving a corrugated edge like a wood mouse).

If you discover dormice in your garden you should inform Natural England so they can help you to protect them.

Dormouse on hand

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know...?

  • Only one species of dormouse – the hazel dormouse – is native to the British Isles
  • In roman times dormice was considered a delicacy either as an appetizer or a dessert (dipped in honey and poppy seeds)!
  • Dormice fat was used by the Elizabethans to induce sleep
  • Can have up to 3 different types of nest – one for breeding, one for hibernation and one for shelter.