HomeOperationsSustainabilityAdorable dormice to get their own railway rat-run

Adorable dormice to get their own railway rat-run

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In an effort to save an endangered creature we now have a new piece of animal infrastructure – in an industry first led by Network Rail and a wildlife trust.

To reverse the possible extinction of wild hazel dormice, they will be getting a special railway crossing of their own next summer on the Furness line in Lancashire.

This is not the first time engineers have used their ingenuity to keep cute critters from extinction, with great-crested newts getting their own underpasses where construction work crosses into their habitat.

In the case of the wild hazel dormouse the issue is very urgent: in just over 20 years, the population has halved.   

A project aims to stop that decline by establishing new dormouse populations in Lancashire, but the selected sites are currently separated by the rail route in Morecambe Bay.

What the new Dormouse run will look like

Consequently, Network Rail and wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) are working together to come up with a solution.

The new crossing will look like a mouse-sized climbing frame which will run over tracks to connect populations, encouraging the dormice to find food, seek out a new mate or discover superior nesting sites in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The £80,000 conservation project involves fitting a 12-metre long shielded tree-top structure to provide protection from predators on the side of an existing railway overbridge.

Network Rail teams are currently working with the ‘dormouse bridge’ manufacturer Animex on the best way to attach it.

Ecologists are also trying to think of a way to encourage the dormice to safely use the bridge by improving the embankment.

Rory Kingdon, Network Rail.

Rory Kingdon, senior sponsor from Network Rail, said: “We’re delighted to be contributing £40,000 to this dormouse bridge over the Furness line to encourage the breeding of hazel dormice populations in danger of extinction, so they have a fighting chance to thrive for generations to come.

“Network Rail is committed to improve biodiversity and protect habitats for the future. In fact, this work directly aligns to a major aim of the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow – to protect the natural environment and contribute to the conservation of nature.”

Ian White, dormouse and training officer at PTES, said: “This year dormice made a welcome return to Lancashire when we reintroduced 30 individuals to the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This new population has got off to an excellent start as we know at least twelve litters were born this year.

“PTES’ annual reintroduction brings dormice back into areas where they once lived, and we hope that this new bridge will enable two neighbouring populations to create a local metapopulation in the area, which will really help bring this rare and beautiful species back from the brink.”

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