First dormouse seen at Collin Wood Park Nature Reserve

A dormouse has been spotted at a Gloucestershire nature reserve for the "first time ever", 12 years after special nesting boxes were installed.

Thirty boxes were introduced to the Collin Park Wood Nature Reserve near Hartpury in 1998 but were unsuccessful.

A further 30 were added in 2008 but were mostly occupied by blue tits.

Reserve manager, Jackie Birch, said she got the "surprise of her life" when she saw a dormouse during one of her regular checks.

The creatures prefer coppiced woodland with wide varieties of trees and shrubs.

The Gloucestershire reserve has recently re-introduced the practice of coppicing, where tree stumps are cut short so more shoots can re-grow.

Other nesting boxes on the reserve contained green leaves and shredded honeysuckle which Ms Birch said is a "tell-tale sign" that dormice are using them.

Once widespread, the dormouse has become extinct across half its range in England.

Dormice are a European Protected Species and are subject to stringent safeguards under the Habitats Regulations Act.

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