hazel dormouse


To protect hazel dormice in one of England’s ancient forests, mini rope bridges have been installed to facilitate safe travel between treetops.

The two 20-meter-long bridges, erected over a track in the Forest of Dean, aim to reconnect the rodents’ habitats disrupted by the removal of diseased ash trees.

Forestry England, which set up the crossings, said they would “enable dormice to feel safer as they cross from one part of the wood to another”.

Ecologist Kate Wollen, from the organisation, explained: “Dormice do not like to come to ground except for hibernation. They feel vulnerable to predators when on the ground.”

Chalara ash dieback is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. It had developed among a section of trees in the woodland in Flaxley, where dormice are monitored.

“The fungus blocks the tree’s water transport system, causing leaf loss, and lesions in the wood and on the bark,” a Forestry England spokesperson said.

“This causes the crown of trees to die back. Trees become brittle over time with branches breaking away from the tree.

“If left untreated, trees can potentially collapse, presenting an immediate danger to the surrounding area.”

After clearing the diseased trees near Mitcheldean, Forestry England implemented the 16-foot-high bridges, which were installed in less than two days.

Trail cameras will be set up in the summer to track the usage of these bridges by the dormice.

“We could not have accomplished this project without the help of our volunteers,” said community ranger Leoni Dawson.

“Together we have worked very hard in this woodland improving habitat for the wildlife and flora. We also have a volunteer who has been surveying for dormice here for over 20 years.

“We hope the bridges will complement this work and that dormice will do well. We’ve never tried this before and it is exciting to see what will happen.”



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