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Orphaned in August ~ the Middlewood Dormice


On Wednesday evening, August 22nd, my neighbour Geoff reported hearing some squeaking in our beech hedge which separates dormouse Cornwallour two gardens. ‘Probably just shrews quarrelling’ was my reply…


Luckily he doesn’t give up easily and arrived the next day to say there was even more squeaking and asked if I’d go up and look.

Halfway up a branch was a tiny dormouse, eyes just open, far too small to be out of its nest. Further squeaking resulting in Geoff finding three more in the leaf litter and then I found a dead adult, a female just a couple of feet away. Not a cat kill (a cat would eaten most of the animal).

photo: Jen Bousfield,
taken just after feeding.



Warmth was the priority, supplied by a hot water

bottle and a fleecy hat. The squeaking stopped. After advice, Pete collected rehydration salts, a small syringe from the vets and some goats’ milk.


Meanwhile Geoff had found the nest, beautifully constructed with thick woven walls and a small opening and yes, there were two more babies inside ~ now there were six!


Throughout Friday & Saturday, I fed them with goats’ milk every 2 ~ 3 hours with blackberries and shavings of hazel nut & sunflower seeds for the night time. From the beginning two seemed stronger but one of the weaker ones quietly died in its sleep on Sunday morning.


With work about to start I knew that I would not be able to feed them during the day and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep their fur clean so I decided to telephone Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in Somerset because I knew they had rescued dormice in the dormicepast and have a policy of returning animals to the wild when fit enough rather than keeping them in captivity.
After leaving them in the care of Pauline Kidner, we returned home feeling slightly bereft but knowing we had made the right decision.

Ten days later I had a call from Debbie at Secret World to say that three had survived & were to be media stars for a day, even mentioned in the national news!

photo: Fran Stothard,
Staff at Secret World work 24/7to rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release of Britain’s orphaned, injured and sick wildlife




Sleeping during the day & active at night, they are growing up and hopefully after hibernation, they will be strong enough to be returned here for release next spring.

I will be raising money this autumn & winter to send to Secret World; if you would like to see the work they do please look at their website: www.secretworld.org 


Jen Bousfield

Middlewood, Cornwall

September 2012


Useful links:

Dormice UK - www.dormice.org.uk

Cornwall Mammal Identification Guides - www.erccis.org.uk/resources

Secret World -www.secretworld.org 

See some woderful images of the Middlewood Dormice www.dailymail.co.uk/news

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the network for Cornish businesses in the Lynher Valley protecting the environment