WILTSHIRE Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to help locate populations of hazel dormice in the county by looking for nibbled nuts.

This is the 21st anniversary of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme and The People’s Trust for Endangered Species and Natural England have launched the third Great Nut Hunt this autumn to help them find out more about dormice across the whole country.

The hazel dormouse is Britain’s only native dormouse species and, although once widespread across Britain, their range has declined significantly over the last century due to changes in woodland management, farming practices, loss of hedgerows and fragmentation of woodland.

There are currently some big gaps in Wiltshire dormice records so the Trust is keen for volunteers to join in this national survey by looking for nibbled nuts.

Dormice leave distinctive marks when they nibble their way into green hazelnuts before eating the kernel and discarding the shell, so leaving evidence of their existence.

The Trust’s biodiversity action plan assistant Diane Nicolle said: “The hazel dormouse is largely nocturnal and arboreal, so it is very difficult for people to see. By encouraging volunteers to look for dormouse-nibbled hazel nuts we can build a better picture of where in Wiltshire this cute ginger rodent is currently living.”

Dormice are sensitive to changes in their habitat or in climate so they are a helpful indicator for the diversity of other animals and plants found in woodlands and hedgerows.

“We are especially keen on investigating areas of Wiltshire where we currently have very few records, including where the New Forest extends into Wiltshire.

“However, records from any part of the county will be welcomed as they will all help in directing future conservation effort,” said Diane.

To take part in the Great Nut Hunt ring Diane Nicolle on 01380 725670 ext 230 or e-mail dianen@wiltshirewildlife.org.