The hazel dormouse got its common name not only because it spends more than half its life asleep but also because of its association with hazel coppice. Coppice interspersed with standard trees use to be a common style of woodland management which favoured dormouse.
Products made from coppice wood included hurdles, thatching spars and pea sticks.The timber from the standard trees was used for structural building. Many woods now have a higher value for amenity use rather than timber product and are reverting to high forest, a habitat which doesn’t favour dormice. However efforts are being made in a number of counties to reinstate the old coppice regime in some woodlands.
The Forestry Commission have produced information specific to dormice entitled: Guidance on managing woodlands with dormice in England which includes the following (see end note):
This good practice guidance for routine woodland operations should maintain or improve the habitat for dormice and minimises the risk of harming individuals or damaging their breeding sites or resting places. If you follow this good practice, and carry out the operations as described here, we would not expect you to require a protected species licence.
in favourable habitat for dormice avoid any harvesting operations from early June to mid-August to ensure breeding animals are not disturbed. The recommended time of year to work in favourable habitat is in the autumn and the scale of any proposed operations must recognise the sensitivity of this habitat for dormice. In more marginal habitat, containing a mix of favourable and unfavourable features, which may contain much lower densities of dormice, any harvesting operations between June and mid-August should be restricted to 10% of the area of marginal habitat available. Outside of the breeding period follow the felling and thinning guide as outlined below. In unfavourable habitat for dormice harvesting can proceed at any time of year, unless there is obvious evidence that dormice are present.
Avoid felling more than a third of the area of habitat in the woodland, less for small woods, and retain remaining areas of habitat for at least 5 years.
Do not thin more than two-thirds of the area of suitable habitat in one year and leave the remaining undisturbed for several years.
where possible extract material using a forwarder rather than a skidder to reduce the risk of damaging nests on or near the ground.
ensure coppicing is undertaken while dormice are hibernating (November to early March). Coppice no more than 25% of the area of habitat in any one year, and ideally less. Avoid unnecessary disturbance of the ground, where dormice may be hibernating.
try to avoid scarification or burning up of brash, but if it is necessary, ensure all site preparation is done before the area becomes suitable habitat – ideally within a few months of felling.
to limit the risk only mow areas of existing short vegetation; restrict swiping to the early autumn.
If rideside and other scrub does have to be cut then aim to do this in winter and only treat a small proportion of the area in any one year. Maintain branch connectivity at intervals over rides and tracks.
avoid undertaking such activities during June to August and, where possible, take routes around areas of highest quality habitat.
This information has been published by the Forestry Commission in an effort to provide guidance for woodland management in areas where dormice may be present. Please note that these documents are interim only and should be finalised some time.