11 fascinating facts about the hazel dormouse

The hazel dormouse, which is due to wake from its slumbers this month, is being reintroduced into woodland area in an attempt to halt its extinction. We reveal 11 fascinating facts about this shy little creature.

Its big coal-coloured eyes are beguiling, its furry chestnut overcoat bestows ‘cute’ status and its fluffy long tail is unique among small British mammals. If you’re lucky enough to spot a hazel dormouse, you won’t forget it—it will probably freeze on being disturbed, giving you a great view—but you’re equally unlikely to see one due to this endearing animal being introverted and nocturnal, as well as staring into the abyss of extinction.

With this shy litle creature being reintroduced into woodland areas in an attempt to halt its extinction, we reveal 11 fascinating facts about the hazel dormouse.

  • The hazel dormouse is an ancient, native species; it has been present in Britain since at least the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago
  • They were so prolific in Victorian times that school children would trade them in the playground.
  • Beatrix Potter kept a hazel dormouse(Xarifa) as a pet.
  • The sleepy dormouse in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland may have been of the non-native edible variety.
  • The hazel dormouse lacks a caecum,which means that it can’t digest complex plant material.
  • Its tail is 80% of its body length and, uniquely, it boasts double-jointed hind ankles. Its whiskers are long and moveable.
  • It takes a dormouse 20 minutes to open a hazelnut.
  • You can be fined up to £5,000 and go to prison for up to six months for disturbing, injuring or killing a hazel dormouse or damaging or destroying its habitat.
  • The hazel dormouse’s love of hazelnuts inspired its name. In fact it’s latin name avellanarius means ‘hazel’.
  • 40-50% of hazel dormice die in hibernation.
  • A female dormouse will produce one litter per year–or, at most, two– with an average of 4–5 offspring each time.