The adorable dormouse might be the sleepiest mammal in the United Kingdom. Spending over half the year slumbering, they’ve been caught taking a cheeky snooze anywhere from inside their nests to the inside of a flower. They are undeniably adorable snoozers, so you can imagine the delight of one homeowner in the Isle of Wight, off the coast of southern England, who discovered a particularly portly dormouse had decided to take a nap inside their garden’s bird feeder.
The sleepy sleuth had slipped inside the bird feeder in pursuit of tasty seeds only to find itself unable to get out again having been plumping up for winter. Dormice go into hibernation over the coldest months of the year, and so, much like Fat Bear Week, the race is on to bring on the bulk before winter comes. Some have even been recorded having doubled their bodyweight ahead of hibernation.
The surprised homeowner, unsure of what to do with their laid-back prisoner, contact the Hampshire Dormouse Group for advice. They were told to ease the dozing rodent into a nearby hedgerow, hopefully inspiring it to return to grazing in more convention, open-plan spaces. It’s assumed the nocturnal feeder likely crept inside under cover of darkness, but as the sun rose the birds didn’t seem to mind the new resident in their feeding post as it was reported they carried on visiting the feeder, dormouse be damned.
Dormice, who are endangered in most parts of the UK, thrive on the Isle of Wight where there are lots of hedgerows and no invasive grey squirrels to steal their food. Wildlife groups such as the HDG encourage citizens to report dormouse sightings to aid conservation efforts trying to protect these at-risk animals.
“They are a priority species and hazel dormouse populations in Britain have declined by 51% since the millennium, shocking figures,” said the Hampshire Dormouse Group to IFLScience. “They are under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation of habitat as they use hedgerows, scrub and woods as 'corridors' to move around. Without these, a population may get isolated and die out or lose its genetic diversity.
“Expansion of human development is a huge one [in the UK] as often developers can clear areas of woodland or scrub on the basis that they plant few sapling hedgerows or trees. This is useless to any current populations that resided within the cleared woodland as tiny saplings will do nothing to support dormice for many years.”