Home   Lifestyle   Article

Subscribe Now

Celebrating 30 years of hazel dormice at Brampton Wood





The diet of an omnivorous hazel dormouse reads like something from a fairytale, with hazelnuts, blackberries, seeds, sweet chestnuts and honeysuckle all on the menu.

A species in decline nationally and missing, considered extinct, in 17 counties, the plight of this charismatic mammal is clear.

A new hazel dormouse arrival at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant
A new hazel dormouse arrival at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant

Up until 1993, the last known recording of a dormouse in the county was in 1908 – but that all changed when the country's first ever dormouse reintroduction took place at the Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire's Brampton Wood 30 years ago.

This summer a new batch of seven dormice were released to increase the genetic diversity of the existing population, as part of a nationwide annual dormouse reintroduction programme, part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, managed by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). The new arrivals, who came via Wildwood Trust, were transported safely in boxes with vegetation, kept in cages for the first 10 days to acclimatise, then the doors were opened with feed left for them, until they stopped visiting the cages.

Volunteers with the dormouse cages at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant
Volunteers with the dormouse cages at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant

Back in 1993 a group of biologists and volunteers gathered in Brampton Wood for that first reintroduction of the species.

Biologist and zoologist Dr Pat Morris, who oversaw the initial programme on behalf of the now defunct Nature Conservancy Council, with six years of research subsequent to the 1993 release, recalls: “The NCC wanted to understand if dormice were rare – and if so then why? They were looking to reestablish the species in counties that had lost populations during the last 100 years – 1908 was the last record for any in Cambridgeshire.”

On the preparation for the first reintroduction, Dr Morris says: “It was painstaking as the dormice were fitted with radio trackers and the transmitters were not all that accurate; very long lengths of wire had to be laid on a longitude and latitude grid which was very laborious. They then had to be tracked at night; we hand made the release cages with Coca-Cola bottles in drainpipes for a water supply!”

A hazel dormouse. Picture: Alistair Grant
A hazel dormouse. Picture: Alistair Grant

Descendants of the first population, sourced from Somerset, are still going strong to this day having now expanded beyond the perimeter, found in the hedgerows beyond the wood. During the past three decades Wildlife Trust volunteers have been essential in the dormouse programme at Brampton Wood, involved all along the way from the initial reintroduction team to conducting annual surveys (May to September), the logging of data, along with all the groups who have made dormouse boxes, from a men in sheds group to local schools and colleges.

Annual dormouse reintroductions nationally have been managed by PTES since 2000, releasing more than 1,112 hazel dormice into 26 different woodlands in 13 counties all over the UK. Their ongoing success is thanks to a unique partnership of organisations and volunteers working tirelessly to help bring hazel dormice back from the brink. According to PTES’ report, State of Britain's Dormice 2019 report, nationwide populations declined by a staggering 51 per cent since 2000.

New hazel dormouse arrivals at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant
New hazel dormouse arrivals at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant

Dr Gwen Hitchcock, senior monitoring and research officer at the Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, says: “Since the dormice were first introduced 30 years ago at Brampton Wood, volunteers have played a crucial role in monitoring their progress, with monthly surveys collecting a huge quantity of high quality data that has allowed the success of the project to be accurately monitored.

“A massive thank you to everyone who has been involved in the project over the years through collecting, sorting and analysing the data.”

Dr Gwen Hitchcock weighs a hazel dormouse at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant
Dr Gwen Hitchcock weighs a hazel dormouse at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant

Ian White, dormouse and training officer for People’s Trust for Endangered Species says: “The fact that descendants of this initial population at Brampton Wood are still present after 30 years is a testament to the hard work by the Wildlife Trust BCN and their volunteers who manage the woodland so that it remains suitable for dormice and a range of other woodland species.

“The recent introduction of seven more dormice to Brampton to increase the genetic diversity of the existing population is a necessary step to ensure the long-term survival of a species that's declined nationally by 51 per cent since 2000. Reintroducing any species can have its challenges, but Brampton Wood shows that when the right habitat is correctly managed, dormouse reintroductions can be a success and populations can thrive. This is very encouraging for dormice and gives hope for other reintroduced populations across the country too.”

A new hazel dormouse arrival settling in at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant
A new hazel dormouse arrival settling in at Brampton Wood. Picture: Alistair Grant

Visit www.wildlifebcn.org/news/dormouse-reintroduction-brampton-wood-celebrating-30-year-success and https://ptes.org/campaigns/dormice/ for more.

Visit www.wildlifebcn.org/support-us to support the Wildlife Trust,



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More