WILDLIFE charities are hoping to hear the pitter-patter of tiny paws after releasing dormice into Leamington woodland.
Due to the loss of woodland, hedgerow habitat and modern farming techniques, the dormouse is extinct from 17 English counties and in critical need of help.
In a bid to increase their numbers in the district, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) have released 19 breeding pairs of dormice at an undisclosed location.
It is the 27th reintroduction led by PTES over the last 24 years during which over 800 dormice have been released across the country.
The elusive critters – which were bred in captivity – undergo health checks before they are released in woodland in a bid to boost their numbers.
Their progress is monitored by conservationists who also advise land owners to be aware of practices that may be of threat to the precious few.
Wooden nest boxes filled with food and water are fitted to trees to help the mice to acclimatise to their new home. The boxes are opened after a few days and removed once the animals have settled into the wood.
A future reintroduction is also planned at a woodland near the release site, linking the hedgerows between the two dormouse hotspots, to allow the groups to interbreed.
WWT Scheme Manager Chris Redstal said: “This year’s reintroduction is part of our Princethorpe Woodlands Living Landscape Scheme, which aims to restore ancient wooded landscapes connected by hedgerows and trees – two ideal habitats for growing hazel dormice populations. We would like to thank National Lottery players for their support in funding the scheme.”
With the help of The Heritage Lottery Funding WWT is working on restoring 300 hectares of ancient woodland including 20km of historic hedgerows, 15 ponds and 20 hectares of flower-rich grassland over the next four years.