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30 June 2023
ECOSA have recently adopted a new technique devised by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to assist with the monitoring of the hazel dormouse. As of Spring 2023, we have been utilising footprint tunnels as a straight-forward yet effective method of surveying for the species to provide an indication of presence/absence within various areas of one of our larger sites in Hampshire.
The design and premise of dormouse footprint tunnels is simple:
- A plastic tube is attached to the underside of a suitable horizontal tree branch with a plywood board tightly inserted inside. The wooden insert is slightly longer than the tube, sticking out a little either end to form entrance landing pads.
- Attached to the top of the plywood insert is a piece of thin white card in the centre and then two pieces of masking tape at either end of this. The sections of masking tape will act as the ink pads and the piece of card will be ultimately used to record the dormouse footprints.
- Once set up, the ink can be applied generously to the masking tape pads. The ink is an all-natural mix of charcoal and olive oil (5:1 ratio).
- Once a passing dormouse decides to use the tunnel, i.e. for cover from predators or shelter. It will walk through either ink mix, set at both ends, and track across the white card leaving footprints behind.
Hazel dormouse footprints are distinctive in appearance, compared to similarly sized rodents such as wood mouse and yellow-necked mouse. Specific guidance on hazel dormouse footprint tunnel surveys, provided by PTES, can be found here.
We were hoping that the footprint tunnels would allow more members of our team to get involved with a variety of dormouse survey work, prior to them obtaining their Natural England survey licences. However, the dormice had other ideas and during our first check of the installed footprint tunnels in June 2022, we found one dormouse curled up fast asleep in one tunnel and a second dormouse in a nest it had built in another footprint tunnel!
Fortunately, one of our dormouse licensed ecologists Kate was attending the survey on the day. She was therefore able to sex and weigh the individuals and recorded one male and female.
We subsequently recorded hazel dormouse footprints in other tunnels erected at the site and continue to record individual dormouse in the tunnels. The use of these tunnels for nesting by dormouse is worth noting for people looking to use this method without requiring a dormouse survey licence.
Hazel dormice are afforded protection under various legislation under both the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended) and Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. It is an offence to deliberately capture, injure, disturb, or kill any individual, or their nests and this therefore warrants the need for surveyors to possess a licence.
If you need ecological advice in relation to hazel dormouse, or require dormouse survey work, the ECOSA team is here to help. Get in touch on 02380 261065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.