Wight Wildlife Red Squirrel and Dormouse Survey, 2002 to 2003

Richard Grogan

Wight Wildlife undertook a survey of woodland on the Isle of Wight over 1 ha to determine the presence of common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). This survey was possible through the generous contributions of English Nature and the Mammals Trust UK.

Both species are nationally rare mammals protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). The common dormouse is further protected by the Habitats Directive 1994. The survey repeated a previous survey of red squirrels in 1996/97 as well as visiting more sites and sub-dividing some sites, due to the relatively sedentary habits of the dormouse compared to the red squirrel. As a result the total number of woodland sites visited in 2003 was 284 compared to 249 in 1997.


Size – although each woodland was over 1 ha, the range was large with the largest being Parkhurst Forest (402ha). The size range was: < 5ha – 98 woods (37%), >5ha to <10 ha – 97 (37%), >10ha to <20ha – 35 (13%), >20ha to <50ha – 47 (9%), >50ha to <100ha – 12 (2%), >100 ha – 8 (2%) Character – a number of characteristics were recorded of the woods themselves and these are recorded below. No sites were considered to be purely coniferous, and oak and hazel were found more commonly than other species. Broadleaved species: oak 27.7%, hazel 26.4%, beech 11.3%, sweet chestnut 6.0%; Coniferous species: Scots pine 7.1%, Other pine spp. 9.2%, Other conifer 12.2%.

Mammal Species

Of the 284 woodland blocks surveyed in 2002/03, 243 (86%) woodlands had red squirrels present, and of those: 64 (23%) woodlands had squirrels only. 194 (68%) woodlands had common dormouse present and of those, 11 (4%) woodlands had dormice only. 24 (8%)woodland had neither species present. In 1996/97 of the 249 woodlands surveyed : 71% of woodlands had red squirrels. In the 2003 survey 78 woods were found that did not have squirrels in 1997 indicating a healthy population in the intervening time.

Of the 24 woodland that did not have either species present: 10 (42%) had no species of tree to provide signs ie no pines or hazel, 58% were under 5 ha compared with 37% for the complete survey. Of these woodlands : oak was found in 83% (27.7% in full survey), hazel in 54% (26.4% in the full survey) and beech in 42% (11.3% in the full survey)


The red squirrel was ubiquitous in Isle of Wight woodlands being found in 86% of sites surveyed, regardless of species content or size. However wood pasture and beech dominated woodland seem to be sub-optimal but these would require further research. The common dormouse was found in 69% of Island woodland and reflected the distribution of hazel understorey in local woodlands. This is not surprising as the presence of hazel was the main method of finding signs of dormouse presence. The common dormouse was found in a great variety of habitats on the Isle of Wight and was by no means restricted to woodland habitats.

Contact: Richard Grogan, Wight Wildlife Officer, Wight Wildlife, 2 High Street, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 1S. Tel/Fax : 01983 533180, Email : 

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