Dormice go wild!

Published: 20 June 2012

Dormice go wild!

Hazel dormice have been released into the wild by Paignton Zoo and its project partners.

The animals were brought to Paignton Zoo from private breeders who are members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. They were given veterinary checks before being released at a location identified by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species on behalf of Natural England.

Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment coordinates the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group which supplies animals for the English Native Species Recovery Programme. Paignton Zoo holds and breeds hazel (common) dormice. In addition, the other CDCBG members move their animals on to Paignton Zoo and the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society of London who share the burden of quarantine and of carrying out the vet checks before release.

Nida Al-Fulaij, Development Manager for PTES said: “This summer’s release is the eighteenth as part of the Dormouse Species Recovery Programme. More than 650 dormice have been released across 12 English counties.

“The captive-bred animals, and their offspring, are monitored to assess the status of the species whilst ongoing sympathetic habitat management should help ensure the successful establishment of the population in woodlands across their former range.”

Hazel dormice (Latin name Muscardinus avellanarius) grow to a length of about 6.5 to 8.5cm (2 ½ - 3 ¼ in) and weigh just 15 to 25 grams in summer, increasing to 35 grams in the autumn. They live in wooded areas where they eat flower blossoms, grubs and occasionally birds’ eggs in spring and summer, and seeds, berries, fruit and nuts in autumn.

They spend half of their life asleep hibernating in nests throughout the winter. They are primarily arboreal so can climb well, using their tails to balance. As the name implies, hazel dormice love hazelnuts – in fact they are one of the creatures responsible for the discarded shells with characteristic bite holes.

The breeding and release programme is run in conjunction with English Nature and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to or ring 0844 474 2222.

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