The main existing threat to the hazel dormouse is human activity. Since humans started clearing the land thousands of years ago, large tracts of woodland have become smaller and fragmented – a process exacerbated in recent centuries through relatively rapid development and urban expansion. In order to recreate the natural processes that would once have taken place in large woodlands, resulting in the types of woodland habitat that we think dormice would have historically inhabited, active management by people is needed. Up until the middle of last century this happened through coppice and coppice with standards, but since our reliance on woodland products reduced, unfortunately many woodlands have fallen out of management and are left to ‘go wild’. This is a process that results in a high canopy woodland, with little or no understorey, little or no regrowth and little variety in plant species – all factors that have contributed to the demise of the hazel dormouse in woodlands.
Natural predators include owls, wild boar, badgers and domestic dogs and cats, however dormice are not easy to come by and live in low densities, so no one of these species includes the hazel dormouse as a major component of the diet. Dormice are more likely to be a welcome supplement to an animal’s diet, caught by an owl through luck, or dug up by chance during hibernation, by a foraging animal. Domestic cats living near dormouse habitat are perhaps the biggest animal-based threat to dormice, especially as our dwellings (and therefore cats) encroach more and more into the countryside and dormouse-inhabited woodlands.