Rare dormice return to Yorkshire Dales National Park

This is one of the dormice re-introduced to a secret location in Yorkshire last year and about to get new neighbours today. Picture by Kate Merry.
There's the Referendum vote and then there's what else happened on Brexit day. This, for instance...
Once a familiar sight Dormice have suffered from the loss of woodlands and hedgerows, as well as changes to traditional countryside management practices. As a result, the species is now vulnerable to extinction

Yes, was all about the big vote and we published plenty of Green opinion over the last few weeks indicating which vote would have been a better vote for the planet.

If you've been waking each morning thinking Brexit must surely be a bad dream then here's a bit of uplifting light relief which happened on the same day the UK nation went to the polls and revealed just how much of a divided nation we have become.

The wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority released 38 rare hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) into an undisclosed woodland location near Aysgarth in the National Park in an attempt to stem the decline of the species.

Once a familiar sight throughout much of England and Wales, over the past 100 years dormice have suffered from the loss of woodlands and hedgerows, as well as changes to traditional countryside management practices.  As a result, the species is now rare and vulnerable to extinction. 

The reintroduction follows a similar event in 2008, when dormice were returned to another nearby woodland after a century's absence from the Yorkshire Dales. 

PTES has worked in partnership with the National Park Authority and Bolton Estate to carefully select a suitable new site very close to that original 2008 location and one which has been chosen to provide the best chances for the long-term survival of the species.

Ian White, Dormouse Officer at PTES explains: "The two reintroduction sites are close enough that the separate dormice populations will eventually be able to meet up and breed, creating a self-sustaining population.  In addition, the programme of habitat management in the area will have great benefits for a number of other species too such as birds and bats."

Ian Court, the National Park Authority's Wildlife Conservation Officer, adds: "It is fantastic that we are undertaking this additional release that will help build on the original successful re-introduction in the heart of Wensleydale. 

"We look forward to working with landowners and managers to help create a network of managed hedgerows and woodlands within the lower Wensleydale area that will look to re-establish a species back into the Yorkshire Dales that has been missing for many generations." 

These reintroductions play an important role in the long-term conservation of this endangered species and are part of Natural England's Species Recovery Programme. 

The release marked the culmination of weeks of work by all of the partners involved in the different stages of the reintroduction process, which also include Natural England, Zoological Society of London, Paignton Zoo, Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group, and the Bolton Estate.

The dormice that were released have been captive bred through the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Prior to release, the dormice undergo a six-week quarantine at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and at Paignton Zoo in Devon, during which vets conduct a full health examination to check they are in top condition and reduce the risk of them passing non-native disease, ensuring they have the best chance of forming a healthy population in the wild.

Following the health checks, the dormice are then released on-site in breeding pairs or trios in their own wooden nest box fitted inside a mesh cage secured to trees.  The mesh cages, filled with food and water, help the dormice adjust to their new home in the wild.  The cages are eventually removed once the animals have settled into the wood. 

This year marks the 26th dormouse reintroduction led by PTES, with more than 750 dormice released at 19 different sites across 12 English counties over the last two decades. 

Visit www.ptes.org or @PTES.


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