The timid hazel dormouse was once a familiar sight in the woodlands and hedgerows of Britain. Numbers have since seriously declined as a combination of poor woodland and hedgerow management and tree disease have all affected the dormouse’s natural habitat.
In an attempt to save the species from extinction, conservation work is being carried out by wildlife charity, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), which sees the hazel dormice reintroduced to Aysgarth today, as part of a long-term Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme.
This follows on from a 2008 reintroduction project of dormice in a separate site in the Yorkshire Dales.
PTES Dormouse Officer, Ian White, said: “The two reintroduction sites are close enough that the separate dormice populations will eventually be able to meet up and breed, creating a self-sustaining population.”
The 38 rare hazel dormice have been bred through a captivity programme with the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group, followed by a six-week quarantine at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Paignton Zoo in Devon. Once health checks are complete, the dormice are then released into mesh cages in the wild to help adjust to their new surroundings.
A dormouse in the hand. Photo: PTES
This year marks the 26th dormouse reintroduction led by PTES, with more than 750 dormice released at 19 different sites across England.