The hazel dormouse was once widespread in woodland and scrub in England and Wales. During the 20th century it is thought to have become extinct in over half its former UK range. UK populations are fragmented and declining; it is a European protected species and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species.
We have coordinated dormouse research work at two sites over 10 years between 2005 and 2015. The first study site is in Cheshire where dormice were reintroduced in the late 1990s, through a national reintroduction programme lead by Natural England and PTES. The second is a woodland in North Wales with a large natural population.
Our research has two main aims:
- To compare the ecology and demographics of the dormouse populations at the two sites, contrasting the reintroduced animals with the natural population
- To increase understanding of dormouse ecology and habitat use to guide woodland management for the species in the region.
Many zoo staff have assisted the project participating in fieldwork and the collection and analysis of data, and providing veterinary expertise and equipment to individually microchip animals. This research encompasses several postgraduate level projects. Key partners include the Wildlife Trusts and Natural Resources Wales.
From 2016 onwards we are focusing on the natural Welsh population and working more closely with Natural Resources Wales to learn more about the impacts of woodland management practices on dormice.