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Grant to expand dormouse's domain in the Yorkshire Dales

[Thursday 19 February 2009]

The Forestry Commission has pledged a grant to give rare dormice more elbow room in the Yorkshire Dales.

Over 1.5 hectares of new woodland is set to take root on the banks of the River Ure opposite Freeholders Wood, near Aysgarth, where the rare mammal was reintroduced to the Dales last year after becoming extinct.

Now nearly £3,000 from the English Woodland Grant Scheme will support an expansion of the dormouse's new domain on private land owned by 72 year-old retired farmer Arthur Lambert, mainly with hazel trees, but also with other species like ash, oak and cherry.

Jeremy Dick, Forestry Commission Woodland Officer for North Yorkshire, said: "The good news is that the dormice are breeding, so expanding the habitat is a key way of securing the population's future. A bigger colony is a more resilient one, capable of withstanding change."

Habitat creation and wildlife conservation are important drivers behind the Forestry Commission's English Woodland Grant Scheme in Yorkshire. The new wood will eventually mirror Freeholders Wood rich mix of coppiced hazel trees, honeysuckle and bramble, which makes it ideal habitat for dormice. When the trees are old enough traditional coppicing will be introduced, maximising the production of hazel nuts, which the dormice feed on. Planting is set to start in the next few weeks.

Phil Hibbs, from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, added:"Freeholders Wood covers about 12 hectares, so it's crucial we increase the available habitat, especially as we recorded nearly 30 dormice young from the last breeding season. We are also always looking for willing landowners to come forward with potential woodland creation schemes."

The dormouse reintroduction project has been co-ordinated by a range of agencies, including the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the People's Trust for Endangered Species and Natural England. A total of 35 adult dormice were released at the beginning of the project and at the last count just before the hibernation period that figure had expanded to 58.

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