RPS pilots first-of-its-kind detection dog UK hazel dormice scheme

09 Jun 2022

We're proud to announce we're part of a first-of-its-kind pilot scheme trialling the use of detection dogs to detect UK hazel dormice.

Starting in late June and delivered in partnership with ZSL(Zoological Society London) and The Ecology Detection Dog Working Group along with trainers Kryus, the proof-of-concept trials will use dogs to detect the presence or likely absence of hazel dormice.

Once common across the UK, hazel dormice are now considered rare and at risk of extinction due to loss of suitable habitat and mismanagement of suitable habitat such as broadleaved woodlands.

Frances Morris, Senior Ecologist at RPS, said: “Using detection dogs for such surveys has huge potential to improve the efficiency of dormouse surveys and conservation in the UK and more widely. This is particularly in the case of destructive searches prior to vegetation removal as an additional tool to use alongside existing methods.

“This is a novel project for dormouse detection, and we’re delighted to be working with such esteemed groups like ZSL and The Ecology Detection Dog Working Group. The results of these trials could have a big impact on dormouse conservation efforts, and I look forward to seeing the outcome.”

RPS ecologists were able to imprint its detection dogs on the dormouse scent of a group of 30 rare British hazel dormice which have been bread as part of the UK re-introduction scheme.

The dormice have been through a thorough health check with specialist wildlife vets from ZSL’s Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance Team (DRAHS). This ensured they were all fit and healthy before being released into the wild as part of the UK re-introduction scheme.

DRAHS wildlife veterinary surgeon, Dr Tammy Shadbolt, said: “Bringing detection dogs into a dormouse translocation project hasn’t been done before, so we welcome working with RPS in these trials in what will be a pioneering project for their future conservation.” 

Each dormouse had a tiny microchip placed under the skin so that individuals could be identified after being released into the wild during population monitoring.  

The first and second stages of the proof-of-concept trials will start this month and end in September 2022. The third stage will begin in May 2023.

Since 1993, a group of conservation organisations, led by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), and including ZSL, have successfully reintroduced over 1,000 dormice in 13 different counties across the UK, in an attempt to reverse the ongoing decline.



Frances Morris

Frances Morris

Senior Ecologist T: +44 23 8254 0666 Email

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