Ecologists help hazel dormice to bridge the gap

Jun 19, 2024 | News

In one of England’s ancient forest, hazel dormice are being protected by high level wildlife corridors.

In one of England’s ancient forest, hazel dormice are being provided with mini rope bridges to assist them in traveling safely. Forestry England had to cut down trees in the Forest of Dean because of Chalara ash deathback, which fragmented habitats of endangered hazel dormice. Two 20m-long ladders bridged the gap, allowing them to safely travel between treetops.

Kate Wollen, an ecologist with Forestry England’s area, told Positive News that dormice don’t like to go to the ground except to hibernate. They feel vulnerable when on the ground. These bridges will allow them to feel safer while they move from one part of a wood to another .”

The dormice is a protected species in Europe and the UK. Populations have decreased by almost half over the last 30 years due to the loss of high-quality woodland and hedgerows. They prefer woodlands with mosaic habitats, managed through traditional methods such as coppicing. This practice is in decline throughout the UK and involves cutting down trees at their base in order to create a fan-shaped group of new shoots.

In woodland near Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean ropebridges (pictured below), have been installed. Over the summer, trail cameras will be installed to monitor the dormice that use them.

One of the rope bridges found in the Forest of Dean. Image: Forestry England/ Crown copyright

Forestry England Community Ranger Leoni Dawson said that the project would have not been possible without the assistance of volunteers. One of them has been monitoring the local dormice population for 20 years.

Kate Wollen, area ecologist with Forestry England. Image: Forestry England/ Crown copyright

“We hope that the bridges will complement the work and the dormice do well.” She said, “We’ve never done this before and are excited to see what happens.”

Main image: Sasha Fox Walters

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