The last dormouse in Sussex?
Sussex Wildlife Trust is making an urgent appeal to its members and supporters to help protect dormice living in the county.
Dormouse numbers have plummeted throughout Britain during the past hundred years and they are now vulnerable to extinction because of habitat loss. To give dormice a fighting chance of survival Sussex Wildlife Trust is hoping to raise £40,000 to improve woodlands on their nature reserves providing ideal habitat for them to breed and thrive.
This charming nocturnal mammal faces many threats and challenges to its continued survival including damage to woodland and hedgerows caused by housing and other development, the decline in coppicing their woodland habitat and changes in agricultural practice.
Work to allow dormice to move freely to source food, nesting material and provide protection from predators is already underway at three Sussex Wildlife Trust nature reserves, West Dean Woods near Chichester, Marline Valley near Hastings and Selwyn’s Wood near Heathfield.
In addition to habitat management, monitoring of dormouse numbers will also take place, providing valuable data in planning for the future protection of this charismatic animal made popular in the classic tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written by Lewis Carrol over 150 years ago.
James Power, Head of Land Management at Sussex Wildlife Trust said, "I am concerned about the future of dormice in Sussex unless we can improve management of their habitats. Dormice are now mainly found only in Southern England but even here they have a very patchy distribution and we need to extend our areas of habitat recovery to reverse this trend of falling numbers without delay hopefully this autumn.
"Not only are dormice rare and extremely shy but they are also nocturnal so you are unlikely to see one in the wild. To thrive, they need living conditions with a good mix of tree species, well managed hazel coppice, green corridors to move along and an understorey of honeysuckle and bramble as a source of food, nesting material and to provide vital cover from predators.
"These tiny mammals are reluctant to cross open country and if a wood or hedgerow becomes isolated or too small to provide for its needs there is a real danger that dormice can become locally extinct.
"With help from our members, supporters and people who care about wildlife in the county we will be able to take positive nature conservation actions that both improve and link up important pieces of land which will maintain dormice populations on a long-term basis."
Photo copyright Derek Middleton Sussex Wildlife Trust