Time to wake up to Bexley's desperate dormouse plight
PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 November 2013
Renowned for being unbelievably cute and very sleepy, the tiny dormouse is facing an uncertain future in Bexley as disease and building developments destroy its favoured habitat.
The hazel or common dormouse, already an endangered species, prefers to live in rich, well-managed native woodlands.
But this type of environment is at risk in south-east London, north Kent and nearby areas, which is having a dramatic impact on the dormouse population.
The Woodland Trust has published a list of local nature sites that are under threat.
Wooded areas have been lost or are in jeopardy in and around Joyden’s Wood, Barming Wood, Darenth Wood and Swanley.
Once widespread in England and Wales, the species is now found mainly in southern England and parts of Wales.
The dormouse population in the UK has halved in the last 100 years to about 45,000 today.
The Woodland Trust has warned that dormouse decline reflects the loss of ancient woods and hedgerows, with tree diseases and construction work threatening our wildlife’s habitat and food sources.
Since the 19th century, half of our native woodland has been destroyed or damaged by development, by replanting with non-native conifers and by intensive felling. Wider changes in land management have meant half of all hedgerows have gone in some areas.
Simon Bateman, who runs Joyden’s Wood for the Woodland Trust, said it was important to raise awareness of the plight of the dormouse and do what we can to help.
“Dutch elm disease and ash dieback have had a devastating effect on the natural habitat of our dormice,” said Simon.
“And in recent years building developments have seen large woodland areas become reduced to smaller pockets. This is also not good for the dormouse population.”
Simon warned people to be careful how they treat dormice if they come across them in their natural habitat.
“There are ways people can help, but you shouldn’t try to pick up or handle a dormouse if you find one in the wild,” he said. “Specialists need a dormouse licence before they can handle the species, as they are so delicate.
“We’ve put dormouse boxes in the woods to help them nest or breed, and bringing back hedgerows to create wildlife corridors between woodland areas will be beneficial.”
Hedgerows are useful as dormice do not like to expose themselves to danger, preferring to clamber through higher connecting branches rather than cross open ground.
They rarely travel more than 70 metres from their nest, with one male dormouse and up to three females needing a hectare of land to live in.
So when a wood with breeding dormice reaches capacity, some of them have to move to other areas.
The trust’s director of woodland creation, John Tucker, said: “We are here to help anybody who would like to help by planting more trees; and for landowners who have dormice in their areas, we can offer extra funding.”
To find out how you can help, contact the Woodland Trust on 0845 293 5689 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.