Rare dormice discovered at Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve near Seaton

A dormice nest box scheme in Holyford Woods, near Seaton, has discovered a number of rare dormice living in the woods as well as other small mammals.

The East Devon District Council’s countryside rangers who run the scheme, check the boxes on a monthly basis, under licence from Natural England. They look for evidence of dormice as part of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species National Dormouse Programme.

The scheme was first established in the woodland in 2003, and found a handful of dormice annually. This spring, the woodland had a fresh set of boxes installed, all of which were created by the countryside team’s volunteers. So far, four dormice have been recorded, two of which were young from this year, confirming that breeding has taken place in the local nature reserve.

Cllr Tom Wright, East Devon District Council's portfolio holder for the environment, said: “The stewardship of our local nature reserves in East Devon are vital for biodiversity and are managed for the enjoyment of residents in the district and the growing number of tourists interested in wildlife. Knowing that they are breeding sites for nationally rare and declining species, such as dormice, is heartening and a good barometer that their management is heading in the right direction.”

Countryside team leader (Sites), James Chubb said: ‘’It is wonderful news that there are dormice living in Holyford Woods. We moved the box scheme into an area of the woodland that was clear-felled in 2009 and has now regenerated with bramble and scrub and, while a very difficult place to survey, the results have exceeded our expectations already!

“The management of Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve has been carefully planned to allow species such as dormice, which are in decline in the UK, to be able to thrive in East Devon and we now have the evidence they are doing just that.”

Dormice are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to disturb them without a licence. The mice will be preparing to hibernate from October through to May, and this late summer data becomes particularly valuable.

When a dormouse is found in the nest box, age, sex and weight measurements are taken, and from this the People’s Trust for Endangered Species can develop a good understanding of the national population of Dormice which have suffered a 70% decline in the last 20 years.

Holyford Woods is an ancient woodland which is managed by the East Devon District Council’s countryside team in partnership with the Holyford Woodland Trust. For more information on the sites managed by the Countryside team and the conservation work the team do visit wildeastdevon.co.uk