In last month’s post, we took a closer look at bats and licensing in relation to development. Species such as bats and great crested newts are often in the media in relation to ecology and planning; however, there are a number of other species that are protected by legislation and policy in England that may be less well known — the hazel or common dormouse being one of them.

 

Ecology

As the name suggests, hazel dormice are commonly associated with woody vegetation found in habitat such as woodland and hedgerows. Their habitat preference has historically gone hand-in-hand with managed woodland, whereby coppicing and thinning creates successional vegetation growth that dormice favour, but they are also found in old, overgrown hedgerows and scrub.

 

The dormouse has suffered from significant declines in population over recent years and is now considered to be localised and vulnerable to extinction. Dormice are predominantly found in southern counties; however, have been recorded in small numbers north of the Midlands and in the Lake District.

 

You’d be very lucky to spot one in the flesh as they are nocturnal in habit; they are golden-brown in colouration and have fur on their tails. Dormice rarely travel down to the ground in the summer months, spending the season feeding on flowers including honeysuckle, hawthorn and oak. Later on in the year they feed on nuts and berries. Dormice hibernate during the colder months at ground level.

 

Threats to their conservation status include habitat loss and fragmentation, genetic isolation, reduction in traditionally managed woodland and climate change.

 

Surveys and licensing

Dormice are strictly protected by law. This protection prevents intentional killing, injuring or disturbance of dormice in their nests. During surveys associated with development, ecologists look for suitable habitat within the proposed site and in the surrounding area that may support dormice. They also search for field signs indicating presence, such as nests and characteristically-nibbled hazelnuts. Specially designed nest boxes and tubes can also be used to survey for and monitor dormice presence, but this should only be undertaken by experienced ecologists who hold a special license to allow this kind of survey to be carried out where dormice are present.

 

Our licensed ecologists are experienced in undertaking surveys for dormice. They are also able to advise on the appropriate course of action in the event that dormice are found to be present on your development site. We can design appropriate avoidance and mitigation measures to ensure that legislation is not contravened and are able to guide you through the licensing process if required. As with all things ecological, it is best to get an ecologist on board at the earliest opportunity when planning any development scheme, this ensures that any constraints are identified and addressed at an early stage in the process, and management of these can be embedded into the proposal along with opportunities for biodiversity enhancement.

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote or to discuss your individual project in more detail.