Watch as adorable rare dormice are reintroduced in Bedfordshire woodland for the first time in 23 years

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While hazel dormice are incredibly cute, they’re also very rare.

And to boost genetic diversity among the population, ten of them have been released into woodlands in Bedfordshire.

Dormice were first introduced to the county in 2001 with this month’s latest release aimed at creating a bigger and more diverse group of rodents as part of ongoing efforts to save this species from extinction in the UK.

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The reintroduction was been led by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Ian White, a dormouse and training officer at organisation said: “Britain’s hazel dormice population has declined by an astounding 70 per cent since 2000 and they’ve been lost from 20 English counties over the past century. Our annual reintroductions, alongside habitat management, landscape projects and monitoring, are paramount to the species’ long-term survival.

One of the rare hazel dormice released in the county. Picture: Clare PengellyOne of the rare hazel dormice released in the county. Picture: Clare Pengelly
One of the rare hazel dormice released in the county. Picture: Clare Pengelly

"It’s extremely encouraging that descendants of Bedfordshire’s original population are still flourishing, and by introducing more dormice this summer we hope that they go from strength to strength, which is much-needed good news for a species on the brink.”

Volunteers from the Bedfordshire Mammal Group have monitored the population since the 2001 release and have help the new dormice settle into their new home.

The dormice were bred by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group and were cared for by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) as they had an eight-week quarantine. Each dormouse had a ‘full nose-to-tail health check’ by wildlife vets at Paignton Zoo and ZSL’s Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) team to ensure that only fit and healthy dormice are released into the wild and that there’s no risk of transferring diseases or non-native parasites to the dormouse population or other wildlife.

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Katherine Walsh, senior environmental specialist of mammals at Natural England said: “The hazel dormouse is one of Britain’s most iconic native species, which has sadly also become one of our most endangered.

“The success of Bedfordshire’s dormouse population shows that by working together we can bring our native species back from the brink. This latest release will accelerate the recovery of this species by creating a genetically diverse population that in-turn supports a wider web of biodiversity.”