Dormice, one of Britain’s most endangered mammals, are receiving a welcome boost ahead of winter following the completion of our 600-mile national survey of historic hedgerows.
Britain’s hedgerows, which have declined by 50% since the Second World War, were surveyed throughout the summer by 40 Canal & River Trust volunteers across England and Wales. We wanted to find out more about their physical condition, what they could offer for wildlife and where they could be improved.
Famed as a character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s and native to Britain, the dormouse is under threat from habitat loss and vulnerable to extinction. With the long summer this year, we are concerned about the potential increase in baby dormice and their chances of survival through the winter months. To improve their chances it is vital that their natural thoroughfares are re-connected to other areas of habitat.
Stuart Moodie, senior ecologist for the Canal & River Trust said: “Our waterside hedgerows act like nature’s highways and have the potential to allow species like dormice safe routes to travel, collect food and find shelter to help them survive. The greatest threat to dormice is the winter and our hedgerows can provide them with essential shelter to hibernate. We’re so pleased that our survey has shown that over half of our hedgerows are in good condition, but is also means of course that the other half needs attention.
“Species-rich hedgerows are our oldest established habitat so it’s important we monitor and improve them and provide connectivity with other canal side habitats. Throughout the winter we’ll embark on a programme to reinvigorate sections of hedgerow, running hedge laying and planting days and make sure we’re doing what we can to provide improved and essential habitat.”
The survey, made possible by £50,000 funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, has revealed where gaps can be filled and where hedgerows can be extended to connect with other important habitats in a bid to support dormice and a range of other at risk species.
Across the UK, dormice make their homes in hedgerows, scrub habitats and old coppice woodland living mainly on their favourite food, hazelnuts and throughout October they will begin to build up their fat reserves in order to reach a critical weight to make it through the winter hibernation.
Clara Govier, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, comments: “Hedgerows are a heritage landmark so it’s great that players of People’s Postcode Lottery can help this waterside project and restore them to their former glory.”