People, Environment

Threat of Extinction Looms Over Dormice in UK

Threat of Extinction Looms Over Dormice in UKThreat of Extinction Looms Over Dormice in UK

Britain’s native dormouse has declined by more than a third since the year 2000, according to a new report by wildlife charity, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

The State of Britain’s Dormice report also shows that hazel dormice are extinct in 17 English counties.

The researchers assessed more than 100,000 records gathered from across the UK over 25 years, concluding that the animal is now vulnerable to extinction in Britain, BBC News reported.

Since 1998, trained volunteers around the country have been gathering data on the tiny hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius).

The creatures live mainly in hedgerows and woods, weaving ball-like nests in the undergrowth from bark in the summer and hibernating on or near the ground in winter between October and May.

The report shows that they are more difficult to find than ever. Over the last 16 years, the population has declined by almost 40%. Populations are now restricted to the Welsh borders and southern England.

“Dormice have been around for 40 million years, but their future in Britain is now precarious and there’s a pressing need for action to ensure their long-term survival,” said Ian White, a dormouse officer at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

In 1885, dormice were present in 49 English counties; today, they’re known in 32, excluding counties where they have been reintroduced.

A key factor in their decline is the loss of woodland and hedgerows. Their habitats are more fragmented and they cannot disperse through the landscape.

The management of farmland and woodland has also changed, making it harder for dormice to survive. They are also vulnerable to changes in the weather, in particular wetter springs and summers, when foraging for food becomes harder. Warmer winters also interrupt successful hibernation.