The Japanese dormouse is a nocturnal rodent that spends the night ranging over a relatively large area searching for food, with males covering greater distances than females (2) (4). It is an agile climber and spends the vast majority of its time in trees, feeding on seeds, fruits, insects and birds’ eggs (2). Dormice are the only rodents to lack a cecum, which indicates the lack of cellulose in their diet. The daytime is spent in round nests, constructed from bark and covered on the outside with lichens (2). Generally, these nests are situated in tree cavities, but they can also be found in shallow underground sites or in rock crevices (4).
A defining feature of dormice is their long hibernation period, which gave rise to their name; ‘dormeus’ is an Anglo-Norman word meaning sleepy one. They accumulate layers of fat prior to hibernation, which can last for up to seven months. As soon as they emerge from hibernation, dormice will begin to mate (3). They have a well developed ability to vocalize, which plays an important part in mating. Gestation lasts for about one month, after which an average of four naked and blind young are born in June or July (2) (3). After around 18 days the young open their eyes and are able to hear, and after four to six weeks, they become independent. Sexual maturity is reached after one year, and dormice live for between three and six years (3).