Woodland Dormouse Box specifications
Facts about Dormice
The dormouse is a nocturnal animal that lives mainly in deciduous woodland and scrub, where it feeds among the branches of trees and shrubs. Except for hibernation, it rarely descends to the ground and is reluctant to cross open spaces, perhaps because of the danger posed by owls and other predators. Dormice do not normally travel far from their nest (usually less than 70 m), so the different trees and shrubs necessary to maintain a sequence of foods through the seasons must be present within a small area. This implies that a very mixed habitat is desirable.
Dormice boxes are a particularly attractive substitute for natural tree holes and, where these boxes are provided, a high proportion of the dormouse population may use them. Provision of dormouse nest boxes can increase the local population density, suggesting that the availability of nest holes may be one of the factors that limit dormouse numbers.
Wooden nest boxes, similar to bird boxes, but with the entrance hole facing the tree, are readily used by dormice. Although nest boxes will reveal the presence of dormice, they are often not used immediately. Sometimes they remain empty for several years. Often the first signs will be nests rather than the animals themselves. Dormouse nests are woven with a ‘roof’ (even inside a nest box), and they frequently incorporate green leaves collected from the tree canopy above. These tend to fade to a greyish colour as they dry out, distinctly different from dark brown dead leaves collected from the ground by other species.
Boxes can be put up at any time of year, but ideally should be in place by May to allow use in the summer. In some areas, the first ones may be occupied within a month of being put up, in other places occupation may not occur until the second year.
dormouse season begins about March or April, it is recommended to clean out all nests at the beginning of each summer.
Positioning your Dormouse Box
The most convenient height for nest boxes is about 1.5 to 2 m off the ground. Higher boxes may be more secure from vandalism or other interference but are no more likely to be used by dormice. The boxes should be sited in hazel or other shrubs and young trees that are linked to the adjacent understorey. Avoid isolated trees or bushes.
Attach the box to a stout branch, suspended in a loop of wire threaded through the holes that have been pre-drilled top and bottom. Garden wire or galvanised strand will do, but plastic covered single core copper wire is best as it is slightly elastic and easier to manipulate. Avoid having the entrance hole pointing upwards as this allows rain to get inside. The entrance hole has been drilled in an upward direction and should face the tree, facilitating access by dormice and making it more difficult for unintended occupants to enter. It does not matter which compass direction the box faces.