1,000th hazel dormouse reintroduced to the UK - Natural England

Conservation milestone reached as 30 hazel dormice are released into Lancashire as part of national reintroduction programme and local ‘Back on our Map’ species recovery efforts

A sleepy hazel dormouse curled up being held by a licensed handler.
A hazel dormouse being held by a licensed handler. (Credit Clare Pengelly.)

This week, the 1,000th hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) will be reintroduced to the UK by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Natural England and the University of Cumbria.

PTES and partners will release 15 breeding pairs or trios of rare hazel dormice into an undisclosed woodland location in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (a nationally protected landscape covering parts of north Lancashire and south Cumbria), in an attempt to save this endangered species from extinction in the UK.

Dormouse reintroductions have taken place annually since 1993, but excitingly the dormice reintroduced this June are part of a wider species recovery programme, ‘Back On Our Map’ (BOOM). Led by the University of Cumbria and Morecambe Bay Partnership and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, BOOM is a multispecies, landscape scale project which aims to reinstate 10 locally threatened or extinct native species back into the area, including hazel dormice.

With their soft caramel fur, furry tail and big black eyes, hazel dormice are undoubtably endearing, but sadly their numbers have declined by a staggering 51% since 2000, according to PTES’ State of Britain’s Dormice 2019. They are also considered extinct in 17 English counties. Carefully releasing healthy, captive bred dormice into the right habitat (that is maintained via correct woodland management practices) is the key to bringing these charismatic creatures back from the brink.

Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer at PTES, explains: "Reintroductions are crucial to the long-term recovery of many species, but particularly hazel dormice as their decline has been so dramatic. Our first reintroduction took place in 1993, so we are thrilled that this year we’re releasing our 1,000th dormouse. This is a great milestone for conservation and a huge moment for hazel dormice in Lancashire too, as there are no known populations currently living there."

Posted on: 18 June 2021

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