Bid to save dormice at Hastings nature reserve

Sussex Wildlife Trust believes the dormouse could soon be extinct in the county. Photo by Tom Marshall
Sussex Wildlife Trust believes the dormouse could soon be extinct in the county. Photo by Tom Marshall

A nature reserve in Hastings is being used in a desperate bid to save the dormouse from extinction in Sussex.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is appealing to its members and the public to help protect dormice by raising £40,000 to improve their woodland habitat.

Sussex Wildlife Trusts head of land management James Power. Photo by Miles Davies

Sussex Wildlife Trusts head of land management James Power. Photo by Miles Davies

Dormouse numbers have plummeted over the last 100 years and Marline Valley is being adapted especially for the tiny creatures as well as being monitored to study them.

The trust’s head of land management James Power 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.”

Much of the dormouse's habitat has been destroyed. Photo by Derek Middleton

Much of the dormouse's habitat has been destroyed. Photo by Derek Middleton

Housing and other development, the decline in coppicing woodland and changed in agricultural practices have contributed to dormice’s habitat loss.

The £40,000 appeal aims to improve woodlands on their nature reserves providing ideal habitat for them to breed and thrive.

Work to allow dormice to move freely to source food, nesting material and provide protection from predators is already underway at Marline Valley as well as West Dean Woods near Chichester, and Selwyn’s Wood near Heathfield.

In addition to habitat management, dormouse numbers will also be monitored, 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 Carroll over 150 years ago.

“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,” Mr Power said.

“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.”

To support the appeal visit: www.sussexwildlifetrust.or.uk/dormice or donate by phone on 01273 497532.

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