Dormice are hard to find because they are small and nocturnal, so very few people are lucky enough to see them in the wild. The best way of finding out if dormice are using a wood or hedgerow is to look for hazel nut shells that they have opened to get at the nut inside.
Dormice open these nuts while they are still green and on the tree, but the shells turn brown once they are discarded and fall to the ground. Other animals like hazel nuts too, but even so it’s often possible to tell which animal has opened the nut. Birds and squirrels usually split the shells completely in half or smash them to pieces, but small rodents (mice, voles and dormice) gnaw a neat round hole and leave characteristic toothmarks around the edge. By searching for, collecting and examining nuts we can get an idea if dormice are present at a site.
The Sussex Mammal Group are running a Sussex Great Nut Hunt as part of the National Great Nut Hunt where they would like to re-visit sites which have had previous records of dormice. This is an important way of monitoring how well dormouse populations are doing and see if they are still present to help with future monitoring and site management. If you would like to join in then please register your interest on the Great Nut Hunt website who will send you an information pack and also with the Sussex Mammal Group [email] who will provide you with a list of woods to pick from.