WILDLIFE campaigners say one of Britain’s most loveable woodland mammals is facing further threats due to the loss of woodland in Dorset.

The Woodland Trust says the endangered dormouse  may disappear from the countryside altogether due to the loss of its preferred ancient woodland habitat to disease and development.

In Dorset, the woods lost or damaged include Two Mile Coppice in Weymouth, due to the relief road construction, Eight Acre Coppice near Wool, due to pipe and cable laying, as well as at two sites in east Dorset. The trust says West Field Wood at Wool and Great Coll Wood at Sturminster Marshall are under threat.

The hazel or common dormouse is an important ‘bio indicator’, preferring to live in rich, well-managed native woodland with a mix of species for seasonal food.

Its presence is a marker of woodland rich for many species of wildlife. Yet its range has decreased by half over the last century. A loophole in planning policy means the trust is always adding to its database of ancient woods threatened by development.

John Tucker, 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 that it is now adding to the pressure dormice face in their search for native woodland. The only way to ensure the survival of this much-loved species is to plant 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.”

Dorchester-based Dorset Cereals supports the work of the trust and has paid for 12,000 trees, which will be planted by people across the UK.

To help contact the Woodland Trust on 0845 293 5689 or email woodlandcreation@woodlandtrust .org.uk