IT WAS A CASE of one’s company – but three’s a crowd for a wildlife ranger when he discovered two rare dormice snuggling up together inside a lifebelt.
Ranger Simon Lohery was doing a normal safety check of all the lifebelts near the banks of Arlington Reservoir when he made the discovery.
Mr Lohery said the sudden discovery of the little furry creatures gave quite a shock.
He said: “Sometimes you find small insects living inside, but I have never found anything like a dormouse in one of these before.”
South East Water looks after the reservoir and environmental manager Emma Goddard said it was the third year in a row that dormice had been found at the beauty spot.
She added: “They are shy, nocturnal creatures with orange coloured fur, mouse like features and a thick bushy tail.
“Dormice normally reside in dense foliage or a hedgerow, strip honeysuckle bark and use hazel leaves to make their tightly woven nests.
“So to find a pair in a lifebelt is extremely unusual.
“The lifebelt is located close to a hedgerow so it’s interesting to see the dormice coming out of their normal habitat to find a home.”
For the past couple of years the water company has been carefully monitoring the number of dormice at its reservoir.
Last year two baby dormice were found on site which is a testament to the Company’s sensitive woodland management and conservation work which is taking place on site.
Emma continued: “Arlington Reservoir is entirely man made. Before its construction in 1971 it was arable farmland.
“So the habitat enhancements we’ve made to the site, such as planting a range of woodland species, coppicing and laying hazel hedges, have been created from scratch.”
The company’s extensive conservation and ecology work to improve the habitats of a number of natural species has paid dividends in other ways.
Since Arlington Reservoir was built it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Local Nature Reserve.