Hazel dormouse – How to protect and plant new food sources for the Hazel dormouse.
Hazel dormice are one of the most elusive of mammals. Dormice are also very sensitive to cold weather and so the recent cold winters will have probably taken their toll. Last year the very mild weather up to Xmas, followed by severe cold will have meant that any young would have perished through lack of food sources. So how can we try to plant and protect habitats belonging to hazel dormice?
Habitats favoured; In the old days, they were most often spotted by coppice workers in hazel coppice; hence “Hazel Dormice”. Actually though, they also like not only hazel nuts, but the mast/seeds/berries of oak, holly, birch and oak/ash, hornbeam and other fruit in mixed woodlands. They even live in coniferous woods. Less intensively cut hedgerows are a major habitat, especially those with woody species and climbers such as Honeysuckle. They may inhabit hedges all year round and are a woodland edge species. They prefer woods where there is a high diversity of woodland species in trees and shrub layers and so a continuity of food sources from spring to autumn. The most favoured spots are sunny warm shrub layer areas within a wood, clearings and glades within woods with plenty of food source plants nearby. Hazel dormice are secretive, arboreal species, so mature climbers and interlinking canopy and branches are important to provide cover and to safeguard them from predators.
What should we do encourage Hazel dormice?
The best woodlands are ancient semi natural woodland that are lightly managed, with a long coppice cycle.
Fragmentation of woodlands into lots of small woods has led to a decline in hazel Dormice populations. So, linking of all remaining green habitats is important. By linking these small woods, with hedgerows and by planting to thicken up and manage hedgerows, the hazel domouse will benefit.
Not only will you encourage Hazel Dormice to move in, but you will also increase birds and bird song, which is a great “add on” reward too. It is still a good time to plant bare root trees and shrubs in the UK (late Nov- March.) Here is a good mixture for hazel dormice and other small mammals; Hazel Hawthorn Honeysuckle Hornbeam Ash. Elder. Wayfaring tree. Blackthorn. Dogwood. Yew. Field Maple.
Above all, by providing the widest variety of the above species you will help to ensure continuity of food sources throughout the seasons.
Plant as bare root trees, (40-60 cm high); to thicken up gaps in your hedges. If you already have wooden fences, you can cover these using a native hedgerow comprising the above species.
Bramble is an important part of the diet of Hazel dormice; so try to leave patches of bramble as part of the shrub layer in your woods. Bramble provides high grade foods, nectar, sugar-rich berries and insects; all are ideal for hazel dormice, which are specialist feeders. Pollen from Hawthorn flowers early in Spring is an important food source.
By providing habitats and managing them, we can try to safeguard the existing populations of this rare species for future generations to enjoy.
For further information on how we can help you to manage your habitats for Hazel dormice contact Ian or Charmaine Noel on (01892 782200 or visit landvision.co.uk or email;firstname.lastname@example.org