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03.04.08
Tremough students search for Cornwall's dormice

Where are Cornwall's dormice hiding? Students from the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus, Penryn, are hoping to find out. They are embarking on two major surveys to discover more about the lifestyle of this elusive and threatened mammal and hope their findings will help safeguard its future in Cornwall.

MSc Conservation and Biodiversity student Stephen Carroll is working with Devon Wildlife Trust on a two-year dormouse survey in Devon and Cornwall. While the species is declining in the UK, Devon is believed to be something of a stronghold for dormice and Devon has good records of sightings, many in surprising places. Thought to exist solely in woodland, dormice have been spotted in a range of other habitats in Devon in recent years, including heathland and culm land. Stephen is keen to find out what features these habitats have that make them suitable homes for dormice. By identifying what it is that seems to be helping dormice thrive in Devon, he hopes the study could pave the way to supporting the animals across the UK.

However, much less is known about numbers in Cornwall and Stephen is keen to redress the balance and see if Cornwall is also a haven for this elusive species. He is inviting people in both counties to contact him with sightings and believes they could spot them almost anywhere – even in their back gardens.

"Although the dormouse is one of the UK's threatened species, we actually know very little about where it lives," says Stephen Carroll. "Traditionally thought of as woodland-dwelling creatures, Devon's dormice have been popping up in all sorts of strange places in recent years and we've had several sightings in people's gardens. They come out of hibernation in April, so we hope to start seeing them any day now. I hope that people in Cornwall will come forward with sightings as we badly need information on how the dormouse is faring here."

MSc Conservation and Biodiversity student Stephanie Ashman is setting up nestboxes in woodland and other habitats to monitor dormice in Cornwall. She has identified sites in the Lizard, Luxulyan Valley and Cabilla, a Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve near Bodmin, and hopes to build much-needed records of dormice in Cornwall.

Dormice have become extinct in at least half of their UK habitats in the last 100 years and continue to decline. The dormouse is now listed as 'near threatened' on the IUCN Red List and is protected by EU Law.

Dormice are nocturnal, hibernate from October to April and can spend up to three quarters of their life asleep. Despite being so elusive, they are easy to identify thanks to their thick bushy tail. They have orange-brown fur on their upper-parts, yellow-white under-parts and a white throat.

Anyone who has spotted a dormouse or has historic information on their whereabouts in Devon or Cornwall, should contact: Stephen Carroll: sc353@exeter.ac.uk / 07972 175340.

The £100 million Tremough Campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative ­of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter now offers degrees in Biology, Modern Celtic and Cornish Studies, English, Geology, Geography, History, Law, Mining Engineering, Politics and Renewable Energy on its Tremough Campus, which has expanded rapidly as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, University of Exeter, on 01392 262062/07989 446920 or email s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). University of Exeter is a partner of the CUC.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
The Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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