The Hazel Dormouse is also known as the Dormouse or the Common Dormouse and can mainly be found in the south of England in woodlands. It is a secretive mammal that sleeps a lot and it is the only mouse in England with a long furry tail.
The Hazel Dormouse has golden brown fur and relatively large rounded ears. It also has big black beady eyes. Its feet and toes are a pinky colour and it has four long toes on each foot. The Hazel Dormouse spends most of its day sleeping in a nest constructed out of shredded honeysuckle bark, grass and moss. During the night it climbs from branch to branch in mature deciduous trees, like oak trees, looking for food. It eats hazelnuts, acorns and chestnuts and in autumn it tries to eat more food to build up a fat reserve ready for its long winter sleep.
Between October and April Dormice go into a long deep sleep called hibernation. The Hazel Dormouse also goes into a lighter sleep to save energy if the weather is too cold in spring, summer or autumn. This sleep is called ‘torpor’ It is believed that a Hazel Dormouse spends at least three quarters of its life sleeping.
YEAR 2 – Ages 6/7
The Hazel Dormouse is commonly known as the Dormouse or Common Dormouse in England. It spends most of its time in trees sleeping and looking for food.
The Hazel Dormouse has a round plump-looking body and a cute little face. It is about six to nine centimetres in size. The tail is almost the same length as the body of the Hazel Dormouse. The tail is around six to seven centimetres long. The tail is thick and bushy and covered with long hairs. The Hazel Dormouse weighs about twenty grammes in summer. That is the weight of about two one pound coins!
The Hazel Dormouse has a golden brown coloured body on the top. The underside of the body is a paler brown colour. The throat of the Hazel Dormouse is almost white.
The Hazel Dormouse has front legs which are shorter than the back legs. It also has four toes on each foot. The toes are a pinky colour and each toe has a strong short claw.
The Hazel Dormouse has large black beady eyes and round ears. It has very long black whiskers. The whiskers can be up to thirty centimetres long. The whiskers quiver and shake even when the Hazel Dormouse is keeping really still.
YEAR 3 – Ages 7/8
The Hazel Dormouse, otherwise known as the Dormouse or Common Dormouse, can often be found in the southern parts of England such as Devon, Kent, Somerset and Sussex. It can also be found in the north of England in some parts of the Lake District.
The Hazel Dormouse is ‘aboreal’ which means it spends most of its time climbing around in trees. Hazel Dormice have feet that are able to grasp onto things like hands do. These feet are called ‘prehensile’ feet and they are very useful for the Hazel Dormouse, especially when it wants to jump from branch to branch.
Hazel Dormice also have feet that are very flexible and adaptable to climbing. They can turn their back feet almost at right angles to their bodies. The ability to do this helps them to cling onto branches and twigs quite easily. Hazel Dormice are agile climbers and can run and jump from branch to branch quite easily.
When a Hazel Dormouse moves around trees, it uses its long whiskers to act as sense organs. The whiskers are sensitive to touch which help the Hazel Dormouse to find its way in the dark. The whiskers also stop it from bumping into things on a dark windy night.
Hazel Dormice don’t like to spend much time on the ground because they feel more exposed to danger. They would rather take long detours through tree tops in search of food than walk on the ground.
YEAR 4 – Ages 8/9
The Hazel Dormouse is also known as the Dormouse or the Common Dormouse and can be found in the south of England. It often lives in semi-natural ancient woodlands where there are a variety of deciduous mature trees.
The Hazel Dormouse prefers to live in mature oak trees. These trees offer good shelter and food throughout the year. Oak trees are large deciduous trees about forty five metres high. The top of the trees are very wide and dense with lots of rugged branches. Oak trees flower in mid-Spring and their acorns ripen in autumn. Oak trees provide the Hazel Dormouse with flowers, pollen, insects and nuts.
The Hazel Dormouse also eats chestnuts, wild berries, blackberries and honeysuckle. Sometimes it eats birds’ eggs and insect larvae. The favourite food of the Hazel Dormouse is hazelnuts. It usually eats them when they are not fully ripe and when they are still on the tree.
When a Hazel Dormouse has finished eating a hazelnut, the nut looks like a tiny wooden clog. There is a neat hole on one side of the hazelnut and the inner part of the hole is perfectly smooth. On the outer rim of the hole you can see little chisel-like tooth marks. The nibbled, clog-like hazelnuts are easy to recognise on the ground and they usually suggest that a Hazel Dormouse is nearby!
The Hazel Dormouse also loves honeysuckle. Honeysuckle supplies the Hazel Dormouse with berries from July to September. The Hazel Dormouse also uses the bark of the honeysuckle to construct its nests.
YEAR 5 – Ages 9/10
The Hazel Dormouse is also known as the Common Dormouse or the Dormouse and it spends about three quarters of its life sleeping. It sleeps during the day in a resting nest that it has built for itself.
The resting nest is roughly spherical and approximately fifteen centimetres in diameter. It is constructed out of shredded honeysuckle bark, dry grass and moss which are held together by sticky saliva. The nest is lined with leaves, moss and grass. The Hazel Dormouse weaves its nest quite loosely, which gives the nest a rather untidy appearance.
Some resting nests have been found as high up in trees as twenty metres. However, most resting nests are built approximately two metres above the ground in thick undergrowth beneath trees. When a Hazel Dormouse sleeps in a nest, it curls itself up and pulls its tails over its face and head. It looks really sweet.
If a Hazel Dormouse can’t get to food because the weather is too cold or severe, it reduces its body temperature to become ‘torpid’. ‘Torpor’ is a state of sleep in which the Hazel Dormouse slows down its metabolism to conserve its energy. It is a form of semi-hibernation.
Hazel Dormice usually hibernate between October and April when the first signs of frost appear. Hibernation is a period when Hazel Dormice sleep right through the cold winter months. During hibernation Hazel Dormice reduce their body temperature to under one degree Celsius! The normal body temperature is approximately thirty six degrees Celsius. Hazel Dormice also reduce their heart and breathing rates by ninety percent (or more) to conserve energy.
During hibernation the Hazel Dormouse sleeps in a winter nest. Winter nests are the same as resting nests, but they are lined with leaves, grass, moss, stripped bark and feathers. Winter nests are often built under leaf litters on the ground in woodlands.
YEAR 6 – Ages 10/11
The mating season of Hazel Dormice is not very clear and it is suggested that mating depends very much on the weather. If the weather is too cold or severe, Hazel Dormice go into ‘torpor’ which is a state of sleep. However, it seems that most mating occurs around June.
The female Hazel Dormouse is pregnant for approximately twenty-four days. During this time she builds one or more breeding nests to bring up her young in. She builds several breeding nests just in case the nest she is using is disturbed by predators or humans. If this happens, she will move her young to another nest.
The female Hazel Dormouse usually gives birth to a litter of three to five young between July and August. Sometimes she gives birth to a second litter in September. The young of the second litter don’t usually survive because they don’t have enough fat reserves to live off during hibernation.
The young are born blind and naked. They are a pinky colour and only weigh three to four grammes each. Their fur starts to grow after a week and within two weeks they have full coats of fur. The young Hazel Dormice start to open their eyes when they are approximately three weeks old. The mother provides them with milk and grooms them regularly.
After twenty-four days the young start to look like miniature adults, but their fur is a greyer colour. The young Hazel Dormice leave the breeding nest after about thirty days and build ‘shelter nests’. Shelter nests are built fairly close to other shelter nests. Each nest is occupied by a single young Hazel Dormouse. Shelter nests are smaller than adult nests.
The young do not develop a coat of fur like their adults until they have had their first hibernation. After their first hibernation, they also become sexually mature. This is the time that they too may have young of their own and so the cycle of life begins again.