Dormice in danger as warn autumn sees them delay hibernation

Dormice are in danger this year as a warm autumn has meant they are still awake, and will be late to hibernate.

Rangers checking for the rodents in their strongholds across the country has found them to be wide awake, rather than settling down to snooze through winter.

This is also because the unsettled summer weather caused the blackberry season to start too early, and finish before the dormice had a chance to gorge on the fruit and gain weight.

In order to hibernate, the mice need to double in size by eating large amounts of berries and nuts.

Experts have warned that the already endangered mice could be put under more pressure if they fail to hibernate in time. Those which settle down for winter late also tend to wake up early and starving – at a time of year when there is no food to be found.

Stuart Edmunds from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust told The Telegraph that this could be a bad year for the little rodents.

He explained: " I surveys for dormice in Shropshire, and we have seen a warmer and milder autumn and winter, normally at this time of year we would have frosts which would put dormice and hedgehogs into hibernation mode. 

At the moment there is also less food around for them so they aren’t able to hibernate. Lots of berries came out earlier than they usually would, blackberries were out in berry right in the middle of the summer and the berry season has already passed so they haven’t had a chance to put weight on. It’s largely due to climate change."

The mammal expert added that this has been a weather pattern which is becoming more common due to climate change.

He said: "There’s always been examples throughout of weather being inconsistent in periods but we are seeing more abnormal weather conditions in recent years".

David Wells, a dormouse expert at the Mammal Society said it has been difficult to get a full picture of the hibernation this year as fewer volunteers have been out due to Covid-19.

However, he added that climate change is likely making a difference to hibernating animals, and the warm weather could have delayed dormouse hibernation.

Mr Wells explained: "Although it’s difficult to interpret reasons for behaviour of individual dormice, we do know that on a national scale dormice are potentially at risk of being affected by climate change."

"Climate change induced wetter summers, which reduce dormouse feeding activity, and milder or more variable winters, which wakes dormice them up from hibernation more often and depletes their stored body fat, could be contributing to the alarming decline of this species."

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