One of the UK’s rarest mammals are thriving in wildlife-rich woodland in East Devon owned by charity The Donkey Sanctuary.
Nesting hazel dormice have been found in specially-built boxes during routine checks at Paccombe Farm.
The critters are officially classed as vulnerable as their populations have plummeted by more than 50 per cent since the year 2000.
Loss of quality woodland habitat and climate change has been blamed for their decline.
Paccombe Farm, near the sanctuary’s Sidmouth HQ, is home to around 400 donkeys as well as 90 acres of woodland boasting rare bats, butterflies and birds.
The charity is carrying out work to support the dormouse population such as hedge, woodland and scrub management.
Helping the tiny animals also benefits the donkeys by providing them with woody browse material to chew and eat.
Staff and volunteers installed dormouse, bird and bat boxes across the Pig Wood site next to Paccombe Wood a few years ago.
And during autumn box checks, they were delighted to discover several juvenile dormice as well as nests in six boxes
The Donkey Sanctuary’s ecology and conservation manager Ruth Angell said: “Hazel dormouse populations are vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and degradation.
“Finding them apparently doing well at The Donkey Sanctuary is fantastic and reinforces the importance of continuing to care for our semi-natural habitats to support this and many other wildlife species.
“Thanks to our volunteers, we are able to carry out a range of field surveys and practical conservation tasks which really benefit our local wildlife and help inform our management.
Hazel dormice are small rodents with golden-brown fur, large black eyes and long whiskers.
They are the only small British mammal with a furry tail and are active during the warmer months in hedgerows and connected tree and shrub canopy.
The Donkey Sanctuary team will continue to monitor the boxes to gain a picture of how this site is used. Information gathered will be included as part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.