Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Hedges key to dormouse survival

Dormouse
Experts hope three clusters of dormice will colonise new areas

A network of hedges is to be created in Suffolk to help populations of the highly endangered dormouse.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has carried out a study of populations of the species in woodland and hedges in the south of the county.

The trust wants to allow three clusters of dormice populations to expand and has enlisted the help of landowners.

Three have agreed to help monitor the species and more hedges will be planted to help dormice colonise new areas.

There has been a 64% decline in dormouse numbers in hedgerows since the late 1970s.

Survey of hedges

The wildlife trust's survey was carried out by student intern Alison Looser in a post sponsored by the Mammal Trust UK, which is part of the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

The survey focused on interconnecting links between woodlands which currently have dormice.

The trust said it was the existence and health of hedges which would enable the populations to spread and colonise new areas.

Landowners have been very positive and three have agreed to join the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme
Dr Simone Bullion
Suffolk Wildlife Trust

It worked with 30 landowners and looked at the height, width, species composition and structure of existing hedges.

Work is under way to plan which areas need new hedges.

Dr Simone Bullion, Suffolk Wildlife Trust's senior conservation officer, said: "Landowners have been very positive and three have agreed to join the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme."

The hedgerow planting will be undertaken by volunteers who will also build and erect dormouse boxes.

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