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Rare dormouse returns to Aston Rowant

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Evidence that the common dormouse has returned to Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve after an absence of 10 years was discovered last month. The discovery was made during a training event organised by Natural England (which looks after the Reserve) and the Oxfordshire Mammals Group. 15 people came along for the day to learn about dormouse ecology and hints and tips for finding them. The main evidence of the presence of dormice on a site are hazel nuts with the characteristic marks of having been nibbled by a dormouse.

The common dormouse is found across southern England, living in deciduous woodland, hedgerows and dense scrub. They are mainly nocturnal and rarely seen, often spending their whole lives among the branches. Their UK population has been in decline for some time.

Having learnt the basics the attendees at the training event put their skills into action straight away.  At this time of year Dormice are in hibernation, so the way to survey for them is to carry  out a ‘nut hunt’. On the reserve an area of prime Dormouse mixed scrub habitat  was chosen where, they had last been recorded some years ago.dormouse

Out of the many fragments and discarded whole hazel nuts that were examined in the scrub by the surveyors, two  'probable' dormouse nuts were found. Experts from the Oxfordshire Mammals Group and elsewhere confirmed that they had definitely been nibbled by dormice.

Mick Venters of Natural England, manager of the Aston Rowant Reserve, says: “This is a good result for the Reserve in many ways. Not only have we proven the continued presence of this important species here, but a group of people new to the site have had a great time learning new skills, making new friends and  initiated a new ongoing partnership between two organisations.”

For more information contact Mick Venters - michael.venters@naturalengland.org.uk

or visit www.oxonmammals.org.uk

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