Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Nut hunt locates dormice habitats

Dormouse asleep
Dormice habitats can be identified by discarded hazel nut shells

People in Wiltshire have been helping the county's wildlife trust locate populations of hazel dormice.

A Great Nut Hunt was held at Morgan's Vale and Woodfalls Hall where people were taught how to spot hazel nut shells discarded by the mice.

"We are especially keen on records from Wiltshire where we currently have very few," said the Trust's Diane Nicolle.

"The dormouse is sensitive to changes in habitat so it is a helpful indicator for the diversity of other animals."

The hazel dormouse is the only dormouse species native to the UK and has suffered dramatic declines during the past 100 years due to habitat loss, fragmentation and deterioration.

This has led to its current protected status and inclusion in the National and Wiltshire Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP).

"Hazel dormice eat hazel nuts in a very specific way, so by walking in a wooded or scrubby area and using tested techniques to look carefully at any hazel nuts scattered on the floor, it is possible to tell whether a nut was eaten by a hazel dormouse or by another species of rodent," said Ms Nicolle.

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