Survey by Canal & River Trust to help protect endangered dormice
Dormice, one of Britain's most endangered mammals, are receiving a welcome boost ahead of winter following completion of a 600-mile national survey of historic hedgerows by Canal & River Trust. This amazing charity works hard to protect England and Wales' canals and waterways. To date, players of People's Postcode Lottery have awarded Canal & River Trust a whopping £375,000.
Britain's hedgerows, which have declined by 50% since the Second World War, were surveyed throughout the summer by 40 Canal & River Trust volunteers. They wanted to find out more about their physical condition, what they could offer to wildlife and where they could be improved.
Sadly, the dormouse is under threat from habitat loss and is very vulnerable to extinction. With the long summer this year, the Trust is concerned about the potential increase in baby dormice and their chances of survival through the harsh winter months. To improve their chances of survival it is vital that their natural thoroughfares are reconnected to other areas of habitat.
Stuart Moodie, Senior Ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, said, "Our waterside hedgerows act like nature's highways, allowing species like dormice safe routes to travel, collecting food and finding shelter to help them survive. The greatest threat to dormice is the winter and our hedgerows provide them with essential shelter to hibernate. We're so pleased that our survey has shown that over half of our hedgerows are in good condition, but this also means of course that the other half needs attention."Species-rich hedgerows are our oldest established habitat so it's important we monitor and improve them and provide connectivity with other canal side habitats. Throughout the winter we'll embark on a programme to reinvigorate sections of hedgerow, running hedge laying and planting days and make sure we're doing what we can to provide improved and essential habitat."
The survey, made possible by £50,000 funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery, has revealed where gaps can be filled and where hedgerows can be extended to connect with other important habitats in a bid to support dormice and a range of other at risk species.
Across the UK, dormice make their homes in hedgerows, scrub habitats and old coppice woodland living mainly on their favourite food, hazelnuts. Throughout October they will begin to build up their fat reserves in order to reach a critical weight to make it through the winter hibernation.
Ian White, Dormouse Officer for the People's Trust for Endangered Species, said, "Dormice are a rare and declining species. It is also likely that their range is contracting due to poor management of their woodland home and because woods are becoming more isolated. Projects such as this that improve hedgerow quality and connectivity will help stop the decline of our native dormice and will also benefit many other animals."
Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People's Postcode Lottery, added, "Hedgerows are a heritage landmark so it's great that players of People's Postcode Lottery can help this waterside project and restore them to their former glory."