The dormouse makes first appearance in Ireland

Species probably introduced here by accident while hibernating in hay

Ireland has a new invasive species, although you would hardly notice given the invader spends three quarters of its life asleep. Sightings of the common dormouse have been confirmed in Co Kildare and ecologists believe there are more to be found.

NUI Galway's Ryan Institute has launched a Facebook campaign in an effort to locate the haunts of this diminutive woodland animal. It is about the size of a mouse but there the similarities end. It has a thick furry tail quite unlike that of a mouse. It sleeps while we are awake and emerges at night. It beds down for the winter by October and won't arise again until April or May.

It is not native to Ireland so the question is how the dormouse got here in the first place, explains Dr Colin Lawton of NUI Galway's Mammal Ecology Group. "It is very unlikely they have been here for a long time unnoticed. It is much more probable that they were introduced, possibly by accident while hibernating in hay," he suggested.

Sometimes invasive species take over a niche and damage the associated ecosystem, but the dormouse is unlikely to become such a villain.


The public can help by reporting discoveries to the NUI Galway survey team at dormouseireland, or on 086-0660208 or visit Dormouse Survey Ireland on Facebook.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.