Famed as the sleepy guest at Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, these well-loved rodents are found in woodland (especially coppiced hazel woodland), scrub and mature hedgerows. They are 70 -90mm long, have bright golden fur on their back, with a pale cream coloured underside, bulging black eyes and a long furry tail.
Dormice are arboreal and move through the tree and scrub canopy with impressive agility. During the summer, they will nest in tree hollows, thick scrub and hedges, making grapefruit-sized balls of woven grass, honeysuckle bark and green leaves. Their diet changes throughout the year but broadly includes nuts, berries, pollen and small insects. To cope with a decrease in food availability and colder temperatures over winter, they hibernate for up to six months a year, during which time hibernation nests are found at ground level.
Dormice are mostly found in southern England and Wales, and have sadly become extinct in half their UK range in the last 100 years. In the last 30 years alone, dormouse numbers are believed to have declined by 70%, due predominantly to loss of habitat and decline in traditional woodland management. There are now believed to be as few as 45,000 dormice left in the UK. However, successful reintroductions have been reported in northern and central England, and many dormouse conservation projects have been established across the country. The species is has full legal protection in the UK, meaning it is illegal to capture, kill or even disturb a dormouse or its nest.