Living with Dormice
The Common Dormouse: Real Rodent or Phantom of the Ancient Wood?
Sue Eden (2009) Papadakis publishing
“…slowly they began to trust us, and we learned to love them.”
This is not a quotation from the book! If this had been a soppy account of actually living with dormice the book would have been fuel for the fire by now! (I might have framed the cover photo first.)
The book title belies the impressive content. Sue Eden challenges the accepted modern view of the dormouse, and bravely criticises the nation’s favourite survey methods – nut hunts and nestbox monitoring. Eden’s excellent collection of ecological observations and her tales of finding dormice in a wide range of habitats will captivate anyone who wants to know more about the mouse. If you only ever buy one book about dormice, make it this one.
Eden pushes the reader to think very differently about the very snooziest of woodland animals. She insists on calling this the Common Dormouse, as opposed to its usual name – Hazel Dormouse – because it perpetuates the assumption that it needs hazel. Muscardinus avellanarius is omnivorous and predatory, agile and elusive, but not as scarce as everyone thinks.
Enchanting photographs of dormant dormice will satisfy readers after the ‘aah’ factor. Accompanying these are excellent pictures of nibbled nuts and fruit kernels, winter and summer nests, plus – now imprinted in my mind – images of nests vandalised and dormice killed by woodmice. Our phantom is vulnerable to many other predators and that is why, says Sue, they have learned to be very hard to find. It’s no wonder they choose to reject many of her ‘dormouse boxes’ and nest elsewhere.
Such behaviour leads many ecologists to think they are absent from many English woodlands and rare. Sue Eden has evidence to suggest that we are wrong.
Pick up a copy of Living with Dormice for an unusal perspective on the Common Dormouse. Whatever you’ve already read about dormice, this will be a valuable addition to your wildlife library. I tried to review this book quickly but I found it far too interesting to glance through lightly! Delve in and enjoy.
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Jason Ball @ Natureheads.com