Endangered dormice have been discovered at Tyntesfield, near Bristol, for the first time by National Trust rangers and volunteers.
The team have been surveying and monitoring wildlife on the estate for many years, including, bats, newts and birds, but have recently extended their work to include dormice.
Volunteers have installed a number of nesting boxes around the woodland in order to provide a suitable home for this important but declining species.
Ranger Janine Connor, said, ‘The number of dormice in the UK has fallen by half in the last 100 years and they are known as a ‘flagship species’, this is why we’re so excited to find them here.’
The discovery was only made possible by volunteer Gill Brown, who shared her expertise and dormouse handling licence to enable the team to check the boxes, as it is illegal to handle dormice without this.
Gill Brown, volunteer ranger, said: ‘It’s always fantastic to find dormice, as they are extremely rare, and as such have the highest level of animal protection possible. I have been recording dormice locally since I received my licence in 2007 and last year was the worst year to date, so it is extremely special to have the first ever recorded find at Tyntesfield.’
There is only one native species of dormouse in Britain, it is a predominately nocturnal mammal, and spends most of its active time off the ground. They are very sensitive to weather and climate as they have specialised feeding requirements, surviving on flowers for nectar and pollen, fruits and some insects. Tyntesfield’s dormouse was found in a state of Torpor (sleeping), which is similar to a temporary hibernation in order to conserve energy, probably due to a lack of available food.
By surveying wildlife at its places, the National Trust is able to assess the condition of its habitats, and can then work on maintaining and improving them. The significance of the woodland in which this particular find was made, extends beyond the dormice themselves, as they only thrive in places that are also suitable for a wide range of other species.
‘Finding them in the ancient semi-natural woodland at Tyntesfield means we have some nationally important habitat hosting an endangered species and with future monitoring we will be able to determine how healthy the population is,’ added Janine.