Dormice on Powerstock Common © Amber Rosenthal
Steve Masters, West Dorset Warden looks into the world of dormice and their autumn feeding frenzy!
The mornings are starting to have a chill when I walk out of the door, the air temperature is gradually dropping, as slowly but surely Autumn is pressing in. As this change continues and the autumn berries and nuts ripen in the hedgerows, woodlands and scrub around our reserves, dormice begin a frenetic feasting frenzy, aiming to reach that goal weight.
Dormice will be making way in the big wide berry bursting hedgerows...
A juvenile dormouse needs to reach at least fifteen grams to make it through winter, although adults have been found pre-hibernation weighing forty grams! Most juveniles will have been turfed out by mum, if they haven’t already, over the next few weeks, to make their way in the big wide berry bursting hedgerows, their mothers having nurtured them over the last six to eight weeks. As the hazelnuts ripen, which they have early this year, dormice diligently set about opening and consuming them in their own particular way. Hazelnuts are an extremely good source of calories, to put on that winter weight, and lots of vitamins including E, which is essential for constructing brown adipose tissue, something that mammals use to warm themselves after torpor or hibernation. Don't be fooled by the "hazel" dormouse though as it is at home in all manner of scrub as it is in hazel coppice woodland, and it eats different fruits - trying to get to the energy rich seeds inside!
A good way to find out if you have dormice about this autumn is to look out for their distinctive nut gnawing technique. Smooth on the inside and small tooth marks on the surface of the nut.
Find out more on our course!
If you would like to learn more about the tracks and signs left by dormice and others come along to the Kingcombe Centre 'Prints and Poo' workshop.