A Tale for Children About a Sleepy Dormouse
Buried Treasure: Once Upon a Time
This is the story of a dormouse found by some children as it settled down to begin its long winter sleep. A dormouse is a very small mouse found in woods in the UK and Europe. There is more information about this tiny animal at the end of the story. You can also watch the video to see a real dormouse.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.— Anon.
Darius the dormouse was dozing. At least, that’s what he was trying to do. If only he didn’t have to listen to those noisy humans! He twitched his whiskers in annoyance.
"Look out Jodie!” a voice called. “Look down there. By your feet. Stinging nettles."
The giggling children came closer. Their happy voices echoed through the wood. They looked like giants to Darius and they sounded enormous. Their huge feet kicked through the fallen leaves as they ran through his friendly wood. The afternoon sun was low in the sky.
“Oh, humans!” said Darius. “They’re always noisy, their children! I don’t know how I’m ever going to get back to sleep again.” He sighed loudly. He sniffed and he grumbled. “I need to find somewhere more peaceful than this.”
Darius waited for the children to leave. The shadows lengthened and the light grew dim. Darius preened himself. He was a very handsome dormouse. His soft brown fur was glossy and smooth. He brushed it constantly with his dainty paws. As evening became night, the pale moonbeams filtered through the trees. The light caught the soggy leaf litter and yesterday's raindrops sparkled in the gloom. Darius sniffed the air with satisfaction. He liked the clear, cool nights of autumn. He felt sleepy after a nibbling hazelnuts and autumn is the time for dormice to doze. “Now where would be a good place to snuggle down?” said Darius.
Dormice are Tiny Creatures
“Whoooo! H-e-r-e’s h-o-m-e!” a low voice called. Darius peered into the dim light.
“H-e-r-e! T-h-i-s is your h-o-m-e! Whoooo!” the voice wailed again. Darius looked around again, but he couldn’t see anyone. Moonlight danced over the fallen leaves. The light caught a glass object half buried in the ground. It glittered like a diamond necklace.
“H-e-r-e! H-o-m-e!” The voice called Darius. He knew that voice. It was the wind. It was coming from where the glittering diamonds were. As the wind dropped, so the calling stopped. So Darius stopped too. By a milk bottle. There were no diamonds, just a glass milk bottle. But Darius was not disappointed. A glass milk bottle was far more useful than diamonds to him.
At the entrance to the milk bottle he paused. His little nose twitched. Darius weighed up the situation. His stiff whiskers extended beyond his tiny head. He could use his whiskers to measure the size of the entrance. He needed room for the huge width of his full stomach. And Darius had a very full stomach. He liked his food and this autumn there had been lots of nuts to eat. His put his tiny snout cautiously into the huge milk bottle.
“Home? Yes, maybe, the wind was right. He blew me a message about this bottle. This would make a snug home for the winter.” The empty bottle was half buried in the leaves. "It’s nice and warm inside,” Darius thought. “The sun must have warmed it during the day. It’s perfect." With his nose still twitching, Darius entered the comfy haven. He had found his new home. There was no smell of danger. No cold wind. No loud noises. With one last effort, he curled his tiny body into a tight ball. Then he relaxed into sleep.
Snoring Dormouse With Sound. Listen!
Next day, in his sleep, Darius heard voices. Human voices. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming. It was the chattering children again.
“Come on, Jodie, show me what you’ve found.”
"Oh, it's just a bottle," Jodie said "A broken milk bottle.”
“Ugh, there's something inside." Darius could feel the bottle being lifted. He kept very still. Jodie gently poked her finger inside the neck of the bottle. Darius’ coat was cool to her touch. There was no movement of his whiskers to show breathing. He didn’t seem to stir at all.
"He's dead, Jodie," said her friend.
"No he’s not. Look really closely and you can just see his chest rise and fall. He must be hibernating. I think it's a dormouse. If so, he’ll stay asleep all through the winter. That is, if we leave him in peace. Let’s cover up the bottle again to make it dark inside.”
“Sleep tight, little man,” said Jodie. Then the two friends tiptoed quietly away.
“What kind children,” thought Darius, “what a snug milk bottle and what a perfect winter home.” He nestled down for a long, deep peaceful sleep.
“See you in the spring,” he thought.
A Dormouse Snuggled Up and Ready for Sleep
Have you ever seen a dormouse?
Naturalist Bill Oddie Talks about Dormice and Their Habitat
Did You Know? Fantastic Facts About Dormice
The dormouse is a small mammal that lives in UK and Europe.
Dormice are nocturnal and so don't come out during the day.
They have large eyes to help them see in the dark.
They live in woodland and are expert climbers.
Dormice eat buds, hazelnuts, berries and insects.
They hibernate during the winter months to conserve their energy.
They are 3 inches (8 cm) long, plus have a tail measuring 2½ inches (6 cm).
Unfortunately, the Hazel dormouse is one of the UK's most endangered species. This is mainly due to habitat loss caused by changes in farming practice and deforestation. The species used to be found the length and breadth of the island of Britain. Now these tiny nocturnal creatures remain only in the southern parts of England and Wales. They are a protected species and are the subject of various conservation projects.
If you want to help with one of the projects, you can get further information from either the People's Trust for Endangered Species or The Wildlife Trusts. Both these organisations are not-for-profit charities and rely on volunteer labor and donations to carry out their valuable conservation work.