Environmental experts have said the loss of ancient woodland in Northamptonshire is threatening the future existence of the already endangered dormouse.
The Woodland Trust said Northamptonshire had suffered the loss or damage of five ancient woods in the past 10 years and experts from the charity have warned that a further 11 were now under threat in the county.
The conservation charity said the loss of such woodland meant the already endangered dormouse may ‘disappear from the countryside’ due to the loss of its preferred habitat.
John Tucker, the director of woodland creation at the Woodland Trust, said: “If the loss of the trees themselves, due to disease, wasn’t devastating enough, it’s a very sad fact to know that it is now adding to the pressure that dormice face in their search for rich, well-managed native woodland.
“The only way to ensure the survival of this much-loved species is to create stronger, more resilient landscapes by planting more native trees and diverse woods, bringing back hedgerows to create wildlife corridors connecting woods in the landscape, and better woodland and hedgerow management.
“The Woodland Trust is here to help anybody who would like to help by planting more trees, and for landowners who have dormice in their areas, we can offer extra funding.”
The common dormouse, is easily recognisable by its golden coat and large black eyes.
It prefers to live in rich, well-managed native woodland with a mix of species for seasonal food.
The presence of dormice is seen as a symbol of woodland which is suitable for many other species of wildlife.
The dormouse was once widespread in England and Wales, but it is now found mainly in parts of southern England, including Northamptonshire, parts of Wales and a handful of isolated northern areas.
Latest figures showed that there were thought to be only 45,000 dormice now left in Britain.
The dormouse is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
People who want to help the Woodland Trust to plant more trees to encourage growth in the country’s Dormouse population can call the charity on 0845 293 5689 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org