Victory for Dormice

I’m rushing to pack for England, where I plan to visit the Hill Top Farm of Beatrix Potter. Her Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Squirrel Nutkin have enchanted me since childhood, and I also loved Mr. John Dormouse and his daughter.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about dormice, those cuddly, furry-tailed little creatures with huge brown eyes that tug at hearts. Dormice are your usual mice in many ways; but they get their name from the Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means “sleepy one,” because they hibernate for up to six months a year. Once they wake and spring back into action, they travel mostly by tree at night.

And that was the problem for the Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council in South Wales when a bypass was recently built through the dormice’s habitat. The trouble was not just that the bypass cut them off from part of their forest, but also that it stopped their access to new mates needed to enrich their gene pool and prevent inbreeding – and possibly extinction. Dormice are a threatened species.

So the Borough Council just spent 190,000 pounds (over $300,000) to build a bridge for them across the bypass. The bridge consists of three wire walkways, which look like small mesh tunnels, suspended from 20-foot wooden poles. You could drive under it without even noticing, but it has caused a stir in local and international news.

On a NPR interview I heard a month ago, the host kept badgering a Welsh biologist, “Why spend so much money on rodents? Shouldn’t it go to poor people?” Maybe the questions really should be: Why protect dormice? Do they matter?

Most ecologists probably believe they do, and so did the Romans who once occupied Wales and ate dormice, stuffed with minced pork, for appetizers and, dipped in honey and poppy seeds, for dessert. (Shudder.) But today many Welsh seem to feel that dormice have little value. Each of us must decide for ourselves.

As for me, I support compassion to dormice. Though on my trip, I won’t be seeing their bridge, I’d have voted for it in a finger snap because I believe that all species on this planet deserve respect. But what about you? Here’s another photo of a dormouse. Does she deserve a bridge, or would you rather the money had been spent on something else?

5 Responses to “Victory for Dormice”

  1. 1 Andrea Warren December 6, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    Hi Kris, I feel like I know your island and your home through reading your blogs. I can sense the peace you have created. One day I hope to experience it. Best wishes on your blog–it’s wonderful!


  2. 3 Lisa Di Nicola` December 6, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Yeah!!! All praise for the Dormouse bridge.

    “Let every man praise the bridge that carries him (or the Dormouse) over.” English Proverb

  3. 4 Mike November 15, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Count me as just another dormouse voting FOR the bridge!

  4. 5 Elsa Watson November 8, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    Kristin, how neat! And what fabulous pictures. I, too, would have voted for the dormouse bridge. (Even though, I’m embarrassed to admit, I always thought their name was “door mouse.” Wrong, wrong!) I love the idea of their getting their name because they were sleepy. Just imagine the scientist who spent enough time studying them to figure out such an appropriate name….

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