Tilgate Park is fortunate to have a population of hazel dormice. These rarely seen, nocturnal mammals are a listed as endangered within the UK and are protected by law, this means that only people who have been granted a licence by Natural England can handle them.
Our colony is part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, which aims to survey populations between April and October. The data gathered on population sizes and breeding success helps in our understanding of their ecology and habitat requirements.
Dormice live in and around trees, moving from branch to branch and rarely coming to the ground. The loss of hedgerows and woodland has led to a decline in their population.
These rodents hibernate between November and March. They start to emerge in April and feed on caterpillars and other small insects, hawthorn and bramble flowers, and laterin the season, fruits and nuts such as blackberries and hazelnuts.
After poor numbers early in the season due to the cold, wet weather, two nests of young dormice were found in August and individuals examined this month were found to be of a good weight, which will help them to survive their long hibernation.