Anne Porter Heart of Durham, News

But not a dormouse!

As the lid slid off the wooden box, a small furry occupant scuttled to hide giving both the peerer and the spied a slight shock.

The Heart of Durham Dormouse Project has been investigating the presence of dormice in County Durham over the last 3 years and so far, although some exciting things have been found in the boxes, sadly there have been no dormice.

Are we on a wild dormouse chase?

Well no one can possible be sure. There has been a recorded sighting  in Northumberland as recently as 2006 but nothing since, although nests have been found a few years ago, again in Northumberland. As dormice are nocturnal, arboreal and prone to long periods of dormancy in the winter months it is hardly surprising that sightings of dormice are rare. Even where they are common in the South of England, very few people have seen them. The UK dormice population has suffered a 70% loss in the last 25 years, so Wildlife Trusts and other agencies are doing a lot of work searching for this elusive mammal.
Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham volunteers, have, for the last three years given up their time to check the specially deisgned boxes that have been put up in woods across County Durham. A total of 104 boxes and 159 tubes have been fastened to tree trunks or strung from branches.


A dormouse box being erected in 2014













Below are some of the exciting things volunteers have found whilst checking the tubes and boxes this year. These finds can be attributed to woodmice, the odd squirrel and birds.



Box number 5 filled to the brim with moss


Many of the boxes in the spring where used by bluetits, here is an unhatched egg from the summer


A nut chewed by a woodmouse, dormice leave distinctive teethmarks on the nuts they eat

Box no. 17

A stash of eaten seeds and nuts


Box no. 9

A store cupboard of seeds and nuts


A dormouse tube full of ash seeds


The tube here is full of the outer casings of acorns


Volunteers will be out in force in spring 2017 to clear and clean all the boxes ready for the spring and summer occupation, and the monitoring process will continue. Maybe, just maybe one day …………….