Hazel Dormouse Conservation

Our research in this area focuses on understanding the status of hazel dormouse populations in the UK, their habitat needs, and how these fit within wider woodland conservation. We are also investigating the implications of climate for dormouse ecology, and how climate change may effect their conservation going forward.

The hazel dormouse is in decline in the UK, where climate and the extent and quality of forested habitats have changed over the recent past. In our alumnae Dr Cecily Goodwin‘s PhD, we researched the patterns and drivers of hazel dormouse decline and how their conservation can be better integrated into woodland management practises. We are also interested in the efficacy of conservation policy to protect this declining species. We have approached these research questions using long-term national population data collected by citizen scientists, remote sensing data of woodland habitat cover and quality, and data collected in the field on dormouse diet and movements.

Building on Cecily’s work, Ellie Scopes’ PhD research is investigating the population ecology of hazel dormice in more detail. Part of this work is investigating how dormice survival and fecundity influences population growth, using a Bayesian integrated population model. This can then inform conservation practices and answer questions about how the timing of forest management might effect dormouse populations. We are also investigating how aspects of habitat, such as woodland area and proportion of conifer, topology and climate affect the colonisation and local extinction of dormice in nest boxes. This works with data from the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, kindly shared by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. The aim of this project is to identify conservation actions that could increase the stability of dormice within a landscape. Finally, we are conducting presence/absences surveys in under-studied habitats, hedges and scrub, across Cornwall and Devon, to investigate occupancy rates and what aspects of the habitat are favoured by dormice.

Charlotte Armitage’s PhD research is focusing on the impact of climate on dormouse ecology, particularly on the use of torpor and prevalence of breeding. Dormice use torpor to conserve energy during times of bad weather or reduced food resources, allowing survival but possibly delaying or preventing breeding. This work is investigating how climate has affected the use of torpor, and how this is likely to change under different climate change scenarios for the UK. It is also looking at how the over-use of torpor, driven by the climate, might affect breeding and dormouse population growth.

Charlotte is also investigating how dormice might be utilising conifer plantations with North Wales as a case study. The project aims to determine dormice diets on the edge of conifer plantations through stable isotope analysis to determine how important conifer habitats are to dormouse populations in this area. An investigation into the prevalence of dormice in conifer woodland is also being undertaken in the area through the use of species distribution models and dormouse footprint tunnels. Both of these projects aim to answer the overarching question ‘how much can dormice utilise conifer plantations?’ This is an important question under a changing climate as these habitats that have historically been viewed as unsuitable for dormice might be able to provide refugia in the future.


Goodwin, C. E., Hodgson, D. J., Al‐Fulaij, N., Bailey, S., Langton, S., & Mcdonald, R. A. (2017). Voluntary recording scheme reveals ongoing decline in the United Kingdom hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius population. Mammal Review47(3), 183-197.

Goodwin, C. E., Hodgson, D. J., Bailey, S., Bennie, J., & McDonald, R. A. (2018). Habitat preferences of hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius and the effects of tree-felling on their movement. Forest Ecology and Management427, 190-199.

Goodwin, C. E., Suggitt, A. J., Bennie, J., Silk, M. J., Duffy, J. P., Al‐Fulaij, N., Bailey, S., Hodgson, D. & McDonald, R. A. (2018). Climate, landscape, habitat, and woodland management associations with hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius population status. Mammal Review48(3), 209-223.

Goodwin, C. E., Swan, G. J., Hodgson, D. J., Bailey, S., Chanin, P., & McDonald, R. A. (2020). Effects of food availability on the trophic niche of the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius. Forest ecology and management470, 118215.

Gubert, L., McDonald, R. A., Wilson, R. J., Chanin, P., Bennie, J. J., & Mathews, F. (2022). The elusive winter engineers: structure and materials of hazel dormouse hibernation nests. Journal of Zoology316(2), 81-91.

Research Team 2013-2018

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Professor Dave Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Dr Sallie Bailey (Forestry Commission)

Dr Cecily Goodwin (University of Exeter)

Research Team 2019-2023

Ellie Scopes (University of Exeter)

Charlotte Armitage (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Professor Mike Bruford (Cardiff University)

Dr Frank Hailer (Cardiff University)

Alice Broome (Forest Research)

Katherine Walsh (Natural England)

Dr Liz Halliwell (Natural Resources Wales)