The dormouse is a protected species under European law and sightings of the creature have not been recorded in the area for decades. But the recent find of a carefully nibbled hazelnut at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre near Lampeter in Ceredigion suggests the creature could be hiding away in this part of Wales.
“Dormice open hazelnuts in a very particular way,” said AECOM ecologist Gareth Parkinson.
“They make a round hole in the shell of the nut and leave clear teeth markings on the outside of the shell whilst the inside has no marks and is very smooth.
“Hazel dormice used to be more widespread in the UK but they are now rare and vulnerable to extinction in this country. This is an encouraging sign and we will now look to monitor the site over the next couple of years to see if dormice are nesting in the area.”
Gareth was part of a team of ecologists from AECOM’s Leeds office who recently spent a week at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre on a training course.
Denmark Farm is managed by the Shared Earth Trust as a conservation project to demonstrate how small changes in management of farmland can have significant benefits for biodiversity. The centre regularly hosts ecological training courses and it was during one of these courses that a hazelnut was discovered which showed signs of being eaten by a dormouse.
AECOM has now donated 50 dormouse nest tubes for installation around Denmark Farm. It is hoped that, when the tubes are checked next year, there will be more signs of dormice on the site, in addition to the thousands of other species that already call Denmark Farm home.
Angie Polkey of Denmark Farm Conservation Centre said, “We were all very surprised but completely thrilled to find signs of dormice during one of our recent courses. It indicates that dormice may use a wider range of habitat than previously thought and setting up the monitoring tubes will help us establish how widespread this endearing little creature is on our nature reserve.”