Scientific name: Muscardinus avellanarius
The shy hazel dormouse is very hard to spot - not only is it nocturnal, but it is mostly confined to southern England, living at low densities, high-up in the tree canopy. It also hibernates for much of the year.
Average lifespan: 5 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Listed as a European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive.
When to seeApril to October
AboutThe hazel dormouse (or just 'dormouse') is an agile climber and mainly nocturnal, so is rarely seen. It lives in deciduous woodland, hedgerows and dense scrub, and spends most of the spring and summer up in the branches, rarely coming down to the ground. It eats buds, hazelnuts, berries and insects. Hazel dormice build nests out of grasses, stripped honeysuckle bark and fresh hazel leaves, in which the female will give birth to up to seven young. They hibernate during the winter months, either on the ground (under logs, leaves, in grass tussocks and at the base of trees) or just beneath the ground where the temperature is more constant.
How to identifyThe hazel dormouse has gingery-brown fur, large black eyes and a long, fluffy tail; it is much smaller than a squirrel.
In our area
Shropshire Wildlife Trust has sustainable colonies of dormice at our woodland reserves in the south of the county. We have installed many dormouse boxes to help these populations and regularly monitor them.