- One of the UKs rarest mammals, a hazel dormouse, has been found in a nature reserve for the first time.
- The discovery was made by local volunteer and photographer who spotted the tiny mammal grooming itself along a path.
- Hazel dormice numbers are plummeting across Britain but conservationists are working tirelessly to stop them from becoming extinct.
A volunteer has made an exciting discovery at her local nature reserve by finding a rare hazel dormouse never before seen on the site. Jo King volunteers at the RSPB Exe Estuary reserve in Devon and is also an accomplished wildlife photographer. She spotted the dormouse alongside one of the footpaths.
This meeting was particularly special because dormice are mainly nocturnal creatures – it is unusual to see them in broad daylight. Jo managed to photograph it for over an hour whilst it fed on grasses, groomed itself and occasionally fell asleep.
Jo King, said: “I’m often found wandering the Devon RSPB reserves with my eyes to the sky. But on this particular day my eyes were on the path. Suddenly, something small, brown and fluffy caught my eye – clinging to a blade of grass right in front of me. As I edged closer it dropped down to the ground but didn’t run off. My heart started pounding and adrenaline kicked in – it was a dormouse! I’d never spotted one before, but had seen plenty of photos, and this tiny, ginger-coloured ball of fluff, with its thick, furry tail was unmistakeable!”
Hazel (or common) dormice are struggling across the UK. Over the last 17 years their population has declined by around 40% and dormice are now vulnerable to extinction in Britain. Dormice are at risk because there is less ancient woodland and hedgerow, but may also be impacted by climate change. Wetter summers and warmer winters also affect their access to food and ability to hibernate.
People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) have been running a hazel dormouse project which helps landowners manage their land for dormice, as well as reintroducing them to areas where they have become extinct.
Ian White, PTES’ Dormouse Officer, said: “Without a doubt hazel dormice are one of Britain’s most endearing and cute mammals, but sadly these charismatic creatures are also endangered.”