Becoming a volunteer

Thank you for showing an interest in helping to monitor the dormouse population of Surrey. We are always looking for keen volunteers to help support our activities within the county.

The Surrey Dormouse Group (SDG) was created to co-ordinate volunteers for regular dormouse box checks. These checks are carried out for, and under the guidance of, the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme managed by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species.

Volunteers checking a dormouse boxWe have over 20 established sites in Surrey, around 10 of them are checked at weekends and these are the focus for most of our current volunteers. We also aim to set up new monitoring sites each year as part of our continuing support for dormouse conservation.

The boxes are checked each month from April to October between the 15th and 25th of the month, in the morning. Usually there are 50 boxes on each site.

Other activities, such as box cleaning, maintenance and nut hunts are carried out during the winter months.

Because the hazel dormouse is a protected species every box check is led by someone licensed by Natural England to handle dormice and all volunteer activity is supervised by this site leader. Activities include: learning how to approach a box and secure it; how to establish if there are any occupants and identify them; if dormice are present learning how to handle them and record data about them for input to the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.

Holding a dormouseBox check details, and other SDG communication, are distributed via a list of members email addresses. In this way the dates, locations and leaders of available box checks are publicised each month. If you wish to join a box check you must reply directly to the site leader and they will send you meeting details nearer the time. The maximum number of volunteers on a box check is 6, this ensures the site leader is able to monitor all activity and enables each volunteer to experience all aspects of box checking. With this in mind there may be occasions when you may not be accepted for a specific box check.

Our volunteers are very important to us and we try to ensure that regular volunteers get opportunities to see dormice whenever possible. Coming out for box checks across a full season provides the best range of opportunities to see all stages of the dormouse life cycle, this also gives new volunteers and SDG members a chance to get to know new people joining the group and understand their particular interests.

HazelnutSome of our regular volunteers are interested in gaining a dormouse handling licence. SDG supports the PTES scheme and has introduced a managed training process for those working towards a licence. SDG Trainees are allocated to a mentor, who is a licence holder. The number of trainees is limited by the number of available mentors. Only these trainees will be provided with a reference for their licence application once their mentor is satisfied they have gained enough experience. Training takes about 2 to 3 years but very much depends on how many dormice are found each year and therefore how long it takes for volunteers to see dormice at different stages of their lifecycle and how much handling experience they gain.

Our recommendation is that volunteers interested in working towards gaining a licence carry out box checks on a regular basis and gain as much experience as they can, using the training log available on the PTES web site to record their training and experience. The best way of getting onto the SDG Training Scheme is to get to know the licenced site leaders, to join box checks regularly and help out with other activities as much as possible. See more detail under Training.

Please see the PTES web site for very good information on dormice, box checks and training.

If you have any specific questions please contact us.