Dormice may be reintroduced to woodlands

AN endangered species of animal could be reintroduced into other woodlands in Suffolk as a result of the success of an initial project.Dormice were introduced to Priestley Wood at Barking four years ago as part of English Nature's national species recovery programme and a recent survey has shown that numbers have grown.

AN endangered species of animal could be reintroduced into other woodlands in Suffolk as a result of the success of an initial project.

Dormice were introduced to Priestley Wood at Barking four years ago as part of English Nature's national species recovery programme and a recent survey has shown that numbers have grown.

They have also spread - probably via a connecting hedgerow - to the neighbouring Suffolk Wildlife Trust-owned Bonny Wood.

Now the wildlife trust is considering plans to reintroduce the creature to other woods which are sympathetically managed.

Dormice have suffered over the past 100 years as a result of lack of traditional management techniques such as coppicing - the regular cutting close to the ground of hazel and other tree species to promote vigorous re-growth.

Dr Simone Bullion, the wildlife trust's dormouse recorder, said the discovery of the creatures in Bonny Wood was "exciting".

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Fifteen individuals had been recorded and the presence of young animals showed they were breeding.

"It is likely the dormice used the hedgerow connecting the two woodlands to migrate southwards to the new habitat.

"This emphasises the importance of hedgerow corridors in linking wildlife habitats, allowing populations to expand and reduce chances of local extinctions," Dr Bullion said.

"It also shows how appropriate woodland management can create just the right conditions to allow the species to thrive. Dormice are a flagship species so if we get the habitat right for them we get it right for a whole host of other species as well," she added.

The trust is currently monitoring dormice populations at three sites and may proceed with further introductions if the sites and management regimes are thought to be right.

Dormice in Suffolk are now confined to the south of the county, possibly because climate change over the past few decades has made more northerly locations inhospitable.

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