Population of rare dormice in wood booming, experts find

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RARE dormice have been recorded in record numbers in a Lincolnshire wood.

More than 70 dormice, including adults, juveniles and babies, were found by conservation experts during three checks which were carried out in the autumn on nest boxes in Chambers Farm Wood.

After becoming extinct in Lincolnshire, dormice were re-introduced to the 900-acre beauty spot, near Wragby, nine years ago in a pioneering project by the Forestry Commission, Mammals Trust UK, Natural England and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Anne Goodall, of Lincoln-based environmental consultants ESL, who is working with the Forestry Commission on the project, said: “The record figure only covers the dormice we found in boxes, but we know that the population is far greater and wild nests have also been spotted and half-eaten hazelnuts found in other areas, clearly chewed by dormice.

“This adds up to a tremendous year for the species. Everyone connected with this project is overjoyed by the progress being made.”

One of the reasons behind the population boom could be a bumper year for hazelnuts and fruits on which the dormice feed. Babies were still being found in boxes in October – very late in the season for new-borns and suggesting that there may have been a second litter.

The hope now is that the dormice will spread into other woods, re-colonising more of their former haunts in the Bardney Limewoods. The colony stems from 32 captive bred adults released in 2003.

To keep pace with the expanding dormouse population, more volunteers are needed to train as licensed handlers.

A special qualification is needed before people can legally check nests, and training takes about two years. Other volunteers are needed to help with coppicing work – dormice thrive in this kind of habitat, which is why in Chambers Farm Wood was chosen as a release site. More information is available from Ms Goodhall on 01526 398182, or via email at anne.goodall@esl-lincoln.co.uk