Tracking Fineshade's Dormice
The Hazel Dormouse is probably Fineshade's most special resident. The species is now so rare that it is vulnerable to extinction in the UK and has the very highest levels of protection.
Plans are now under way to work out the distribution of Dormice in the wood. Which parts of the wood do they prefer? What are the Fineshade habitat types that suit them best? Woodland management is necessary for the production of timber, but how can that be planned in a way to benefit this vulnerable and rare species?
A new monitoring technique for Dormice has been developed and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (WTBCN) have been trialling it in one of their nature reserves. Rather than providing nest boxes, this method uses what are known as "footprint tunnels". A covered platform is suspended in the branches with inkpads and a sheet of cardboard inside. If a dormouse passes through, it walks over the ink leaving its footprints on the card. These cards are collected regularly and the footprints examined: Dormice leave a distinctive print with triangular shaped pads and out-turned toes. The tunnels have an advantage over conventional boxes and tubes as they only require the animal to visit, rather than to build a nest. Nor does checking the tunnels require a licence, since no animals are disturbed.
Friends of Fineshade are working with WTBCN and Forestry England to erect 100 footprint tunnels in two parts of the wood in 2020. We hope to run the scheme in different areas in the following years.
We have a team of volunteers who will be checking the tunnels very regularly during the summer months. If you may be interested in helping out please contact Friends of Fineshade now.
In January we launched a crowdfunding appeal to enable us to buy the tunnels and other monitoring equipment. Thanks to the generosity of many Friends we quickly achieved our target but we would still welcome further funds if you would like to support the project in a small way, even if you're unable to take part in the project on the ground,
One of two young Dormice seen in Fineshade in 2014
Footprint tunnel kit - thanks to those who donated
A footprint tunnel ready and open for visitors