The hazel dormouse is Britain’s only native dormouse species. For a rodent is has an unusually long lifespan of up to 5 years, much of which it spends underground in hibernation. Dormice are endearing animals, with large eyes and a honey coloured coat. They are the only small mammals in Britain to have a furry tail. For more information on dormice, see our online dormouse factfile or download our dormouse factsheet or species information note produced by Natural England.
reasons for the decline
Once widespread throughout much of Britain, the range of the hazel dormouse has diminished significantly over the past century.
Their distribution has generally been reduced to the southern parts of England and Wales due to changes in woodland management, farming practices, loss of hedgerows and the fragmentation of woodland.
Dormice are sensitive animals with specific needs and so the woodlands where they live need to be both well managed and connected by hedgerows to enable them to spread. Traditional coppicing of hazel was widely practiced to encourage rapid regrowth and provided a healthy understorey of fruiting trees for animals such as dormice to feed on. Coppicing is undergoing a revival in some areas but many woodlands have changed too drastically to support dormice. Hedgerows historically linked large areas of woodland, whilst supporting populations of dormice in their own right.
Loss of hedgerows and lack of suitable management have helped isolate and reduce dormouse populations. Read more about our Hedgerows for Dormice project which address these issues. Download our hedgerows guide to wildlife and management for more information.