Gliridae – Dormice

Meet the Hazel mice – a sleepy, charming, undeniably cute rodent family that needs trees to survive and is seriously endangered

These elusive creatures are rarely observed venturing to the ground, preferring instead to spend their time high up in the trees, where they construct intricate nests for shelter and protection. While it is possible to find dormice dozing in abandoned bird nests, they often take matters into their own hands, constructing nests out of strips of honeysuckle bark or similar plant materials, which are then camouflaged with a coating of green leaves to blend seamlessly into their arboreal surroundings.

Among the various species of dormice, hazel mice stand out as particularly elusive and hard to spot, especially in the United Kingdom, where they are found in only a few select locations. These diminutive rodents exhibit a unique hibernation behavior, with individuals known to spend a significant portion of the year in a state of dormancy. Remarkably, dormice are known to snore while hibernating, a charming detail that adds to their mystique. In fact, dormice can remain in hibernation for as many as nine months out of the year, emerging briefly during the warmer months to forage for food before returning to their cozy nests to sleep away the cold winter months.

The hibernation behavior of dormice is a crucial survival strategy that allows them to conserve energy and endure periods of food scarcity during the winter months. By entering a state of dormancy, dormice can reduce their metabolic rate and rely on stored fat reserves to sustain themselves until food becomes more abundant in the spring. This extended period of hibernation also helps dormice avoid predation and other environmental stressors, ensuring their survival in the face of challenging conditions.

In addition to their hibernation behavior, dormice exhibit a variety of fascinating adaptations suited to their arboreal lifestyle. Their agile bodies and grasping paws enable them to navigate through the dense canopy with ease, while their large, expressive eyes provide excellent night vision for nocturnal foraging activities.