Engineers at Network Rail are building a tiny railway crossing for wild hazel dormice to help protect the endangered species from extinction.
This dormouse bridge will be the first of its kind. It will be built in summer 2022 on the Furness line in Lancashire.
The wild hazel dormouse population has fallen by 51 percent since the year 2000 according to a 2019 report by the charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). The bridge is part of a project to establish new dormouse populations in Lancashire. However, the chosen sites are currently divided by the railway line in Morecambe Bay.
The new climbing-frame bridge across the tracks is intended to connect populations, help them find food, look for a mate and find nesting sites in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The total investment of 40,000 GBP will fund a 12m shielded tree-top structure, which will provide protection from predators on the side of an existing railway overbridge. The dormouse bridge is being manufactured by Animex, who is also working with Network Rail on the best way to attach the structure.
As an additional measure, ecologists are investigating how they can make the railway embankment better so that dormice are encouraged to use the new bridge.
[Rory Kingdon, Senior Sponsor, Network Rail, said:” text=”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.”]
One of the central reasons why dormouse populations have declined in recent years is the loss of quality woodland.
“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 to help bring this rare and beautiful species back from the brink.”
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