Dormice live at lower densities than most rodents of equivalent size. Outside the mating season, they appear to show little territoriality. Most species studied coexist in small groups, with juveniles typically making up half their number. Artificial nest boxes are often found with several inhabitants of both sexes inside. Families tend to stay together through winter hibernation; but a wild male, probably leaves a female after mating, in order to pursue other estrous females.

Home feeding ranges are very variable. At one extreme, hazel dormice rarely venture more than 230 ft (70 m) from their daytime nest. African dormice range far wider, and, in common with most species, males travel greater distances than females. In spectacled dormice (Graphiurus ocularis), the male occupies an average of 34.3 acres, (13.9 ha) while the female roams over 21 acres (8.5 ha).

At the start of the mating season, males exhibit territorial aggression towards each other. The hazel dormouse flicks its tail like a squirrel as a warning sign to intruders. Edible dormice mark their space with glandular secretions and fight with great savagery. Garden dormice share sleeping and feeding sites. Males adopt a dominance hierarchy shortly after the animals emerge from hibernation.

All species studied communicate using a range of calls. Five or six separate calls have been identified for forest dormice, including an alarm squeak. Other calls have sexual or aggressive functions.

During periods of inactivity, dormice seek a variety of places in which to shelter. Day nests are often constructed in

An edible dormouse (Myoxus glis) climbs down a tree. (Photo by B. Brossette/OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
Hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) have a largely vegetarian diet. (Photo by Animals Animals ©M. Hamblin, OSF. Reproduced by permission.)

tree hollows, with the animal weaving a round ball of vegetation, consisting of leaves, grass, moss, lichen, and shredded bark, bound together with saliva, and lined with hair or feathers. Sometimes, a ball nest is made in the branches of a tree; at other times the animal will use a bird or squirrel nest as a foundation for its own nest, or it will tuck the nest behind the bark of the tree. Garden and African dormice in particular also use rock crevices. Artificial nestboxes are adopted readily by many species.

Ironically, it is during the period of sustained inactivity that dormice are most likely to come into contact with humans. Their search for a secure, enclosed hibernation site with stable temperatures leads them into some bizarre places. While hazel dormice make their winter nests in tree stumps or on the ground, rather than in trees where temperatures fluctuate and desiccation is a threat, edible dormice may also choose woodpecker holes, artificial nest boxes, and barns. Japanese dormice are known to select cottage roofs and bird-houses while African dormice sometimes winter inside house furniture.

Most species undergo periods of hibernation in response to food shortages and low temperatures. Hibernation in Europe may extend from September until May. The animal curls itself into a ball, with the tail covering the mouth to reduce water loss. Although hibernation is thought to occur in most species, climactic variation means that in some milder areas such as Israel, dormice do not go into true hibernation, but have several hours of torpidity each day during the winter.

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