Wildlife Conservation Group in the

Forest of Dean








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14 December 2010

The team with their collection of nuts!

This is one of our intrepid team members stood on the Devil's Pulpit which is a rock on the Offa's Dyke footpath about 150 yards from where we were searching for the dormice hazel nuts.

Tintern Abbey and the River Wye are in the background.

Lippets Grove GWT Reserve

Grid Ref SO541003

Prior to a very good and jolly christmas lunch courtesy of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the Dean Green Team went on a dormouse nut hunt in Lippets Grove.

We were instructed and lead by Denis Jackson from the Gwent Wildlife Trust who said that there were about 50 dormice boxes lower down in the woods, of which, about 20 had been occupied this year. The site where we were to hunt for nuts was an area which had not been checked before so they did not know if any dormice resided in those woods. We all searched amongst the leaves, sticks and debris under the hazel trees. We found many hazel nuts which had been split by squirrels and then found about twenty nuts in all which had the tell-tale signs of the dormouse. We also found one nut which had the teeth marks of a little mouse.

Dormouse Hazel dormice are the only small mammals in Britain to have a completely furry tail. They have golden-brown fur and large black eyes. They are nocturnal creatures and spend most of their waking hours high among the branches of trees looking for food. They will make long detours through the treetops rather than come down to the ground and expose themselves to danger.

In winter, dormice hibernate in nests beneath the leaf litter on the forest floor. When they wake up in spring, they build woven nests of honeysuckle bark and fresh leaves in the undergrowth. If the weather is cold and wet, and food scarce, they save energy by going into 'torpor' they curl up into a ball and go to sleep. Dormice therefore spend a large proportion of their lives sleeping; either hibernating in winter or in torpor in summer.

Breeding three to seven blind and naked young are born in July or August. The babies grow quickly and leave their mother's nest after about two months. They must weigh about 25 grams before hibernating for the first time, otherwise their chances of surviving the winter are slim. Dormice usually have one litter a year but, if the summer is fine and long, they may have two.

Their diet consists of flowers, honeysuckle and pollen in spring. Fruits, hazelnuts, and sweet chestnuts, as well as aphids and other small insects, in the autumn.

Their habitat is deciduous woodland with a good, varied shrub understory and large, overgrown hedgerows. Their biggest threat is starvation during the cold winter months and the loss of their woodland habitat. Dormice used to be more widespread in the UK but they are now rare and vulnerable to extinction in this country. They are mostly found only in the southern counties of England and Wales.

Did you know? Dormice open hazelnuts in a very particular way. They make a round hole in the shell of the nut and leave clear teeth markings on the outside of the shell whilst the inside has no marks and is very smooth.

Devil's Pulpit


Dean Green Team


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