Towards the end of last year Thomson Ecology staff discovered a new colony of dormice in a hedgerow on a farm just outside Basingstoke. This was exciting from an ecology standpoint but it added complications to the development, and meant that mitigation measures would need to be incorporated into the development.
The dormouse is a rarely seen, elusive creature. Many people’s only awareness of them comes from the sleepy participant of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. In some ways, this is an accurate portrayal as dormice are mainly nocturnal, with most encounters during the day being of a curled up ball of ginger fluff, fast asleep, or even torpid as the weather turns colder in late autumn. In fact the name comes from the French word dormir, meaning to sleep.
Once widespread throughout Britain, dormice have suffered severe declines in numbers over the last century with their distributional range reduced mostly to Wales and southern areas of England. Changes in woodland management, farming practices, loss of hedgerows and the fragmentation of woodland have badly impacted upon their populations.
Dormice are protected by both UK and European legislation making it an offence “to deliberately capture, kill or disturb a dormouse or to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to a breeding site or resting place of a dormouse”. Where potential dormouse habitat such as hedgerows, woodland or scrub is present on a development site, surveys are required to determine their presence or likely absence, and mitigation strategies – to protect populations and prevent an offence from being committed – may be required.
Thomson Ecology staff possess survey expertise for all protected species and habitats and are able to provide specialist advice and support for development projects where ecology is a factor.