New £40,000 'bridge' to be built over Lancashire railway in bid to help one of the county's rarest residents

A new bridge is to be built across a Lancashire railway for some of the county’s smallest residents.

By Phil Cunnington
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 3:45 pm

Engineers are building a tiny railway crossing for wild hazel dormice in a bid to save the endangered species from extinction.

The new ‘dormouse bridge’ will be the first of its kind on the railway when it’s built next summer on the Furness line in north Lancashire.

Wild hazel dormice have declined by a staggering 51 per cent since 2000. This project aims to tackle that decline by establishing new dormouse populations in Lancashire, but the selected sites are currently separated by the rail route in Morecambe Bay.

A tiny bridge (right) is to be built across a railway line near Carnforth to help endangered hazel dormice (left) across the tracks to find new habitats and dormice populations Picture: ANIMEX/CLARE PENGELLY

The new mouse-sized climbing frame over tracks will connect populations, encouraging them to find food, look for a new mate or find better nesting sites in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It’s a move by Network Rail and wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to increase dormice numbers in this part of England.

The £40,000 conservation project involves fitting a 12-metre long shielded tree-top structure to provide protection from predators on the side of an existing railway overbridge.

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Rory Kingdon, senior sponsor from Network Rail, said: “We’re delighted to be contributing £40,000 to this dormouse bridge over the Furness line to encourage the breeding of hazel dormice populations in danger of extinction, so they have a fighting chance to thrive for generations to come.”

Ian White, dormouse and training officer at PTES, said: “This year dormice made a welcome return to Lancashire when we reintroduced 30 individuals to the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This new population has got off to an excellent start as we know at least twelve litters were born this year.

“PTES’ annual reintroduction brings dormice back into areas where they once lived, and we hope that this new bridge will enable two neighbouring populations to create a local metapopulation in the area, which will really to help bring this rare and beautiful species back from the brink.”