Despite its elusiveness, the common or hazel dormouse, with its fairytale looks, is one of the most popular British mammals.
It is famous for its penchant for a good sleep and, being arboreal, spends most of its active time up in the tree canopy searching for food.
Dormice are also nocturnal and hence even more difficult to spot. The tiny dormouse’s round body is covered with golden coloured fur and large black eyes are an indication of its nocturnal existence.
The adults only grow up to 6cm to 9cm in length, with a slightly shorter bushy tail, and weigh from about 25 to 40 grams at their heaviest, right before hibernation.
The hibernation period generally lasts from October to April or May, in a hibernation nest built on the ground.
This is a vulnerable time for the dormouse and not all survive it.
The dormouse diet mainly consists of nuts, berries, flowers and pollen, as well as small insects. Hazelnuts are of particular importance when they prepare for hibernation by building up body fat. The dormouse is most often found in deciduous woodland with plenty of undergrowth, hazel coppice and thick hedgerows, and its current stronghold is in the southern counties of England and Wales.
The dormouse population has decreased dramatically in the last 100 years.
Dormice are extremely vulnerable to changes in habitat and the decline in numbers is mainly due to changes in woodland management and the resulting habitat loss.
Today, dormice are a rare and endangered species. They are strictly protected by law and it is illegal to even handle one without a licence.