We are working in partnership with the Berkshire Mammal Group to monitor and conduct research into the current number of common (or hazel) dormice making the Park their home.
These small creatures (with a body length of just 6.5cm to 8cm) are native to the UK and are classified as rare and vulnerable to extinction due to a declining population.
The aim of the partnership is to install over 50 nest boxes throughout the wider estate at the Park which will provide dormice with extra places to nest during the summer months which we hope will result in an increase in the local population.
The common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanariu) has golden-brown fur and large black eyes and a furry tail, which is semi-prehensile meaning it can be an aid to climbing. Distinctively dormice lack a caecum meaning they are unable to digest green material such as leaves, therefore they are heavily reliant on berries, flowers, pollen and insects through-out their active season.
They are nocturnal and spend almost all of their time in the branches of trees during the summer, rarely coming down to the ground.
When conditions are cold or wet, or if food is scarce, dormice curl up into a ball and go into a state similar to hibernation for a short time (called torpor) in order to save energy. Between October and May dormice hibernate in nests beneath the leaf litter on the forest floor or in the base of hedgerows.
Interestingly their tails are 80% if their body length with an average weight of just 20g (but can be 35g prior to hibernation). They have a life span of five years.
Deputy Curator a Beale Wildlife Park – Paul Betchley explained “Dormice are an important link in the biodiversity of the natural world as part of the food chain. We are delighted to be working alongside the Berkshire Mammal Group and hope that over the next few years we will see the population double here in West Berkshire.
Dr Amanda Lloyd Berkshire Mammal Group: “As the dormouse officer for Berkshire Mammal Group I am excited about collaborating with Beale Park on this project. Not only will the nest boxes provide extra nesting space for any resident dormice, land management of the Parks’ woods and hedgerows with dormice in mind will not only aid this declining and rare mammal but it will provide benefits to a whole host of other species.” For information on the work of the Berkshire Mammal group click here.
Click here to watch a short film about the project on our YouTube channel.