Romanian Hamster

Mesocricetus newtoni (Nehring, 1898)

Mesocricetus auratus: Markov, 1960: 295; Mesocricetus auratus newtoni Nehring, 1898: Atanassov, Peschev, 1963: 108.

Order Rodentia

Family Cricetidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU [D2], BDA-II, III; International: IUCN (2004)-VU [D2], BeC-II.

General distribution. Bulgaria, Southeastern Romania.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Northern Bulgaria, isolated localities to the south of the Balkan range [12]. More frequently found and more numerous than the great hamster. There are no concrete data about the numbers but they can be estimated as low.

Habitats. Virgin lands, alfalfa and corn fields, vineyards, orchards and vegetable gardens [1, 2]. According to data from the region of Konstanta, Romania [3] it prefers areas occupied by forage cultures, virgin lands, less often settling in corn cultures and the field-protecting belts, practically absent in ploughable cultures.

Biology. It lives in separately dug out holes, similar to those of the European hamster but shallower: the nesting chamber is at a depth of about 50 - 60 cm, rarely up to 1.5 m [4]. It is active mainly during the night, going out in search for food also during the day. Falling into hibernation depends on the ecological conditions, mostly temperatures and population density [2, 3, 5, 6]. It feeds on herbaceous plants, mainly corn and beans, potatoes, seeds (maize, sunflower, wheat, oats, vetch) [2]. Breeding starts in April May. It yields 2 3 clutches a year, with 2 10 young ones in a clutch [4]. It falls prey to rapacious birds, usually owls [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. It competes with the European hamster.

Similar species. The European hamster (Cricetus cricetus), but the Romanian hamster is smaller and only its chest is black.

Negative factors. Industrial agriculture with the use of the technique of deep ploughing and pesticides. Private agriculture of the farmer's type and the fragmentation of the areas and their intensive processing associated with it, with the use of considerable quantities of fertilizers and pesticides.

Conservation measures taken. Included in the the Red Data Book of Bulgaria, 1985, in the rare category, the Berne Convention, Annex II, Annexes 2 and 3 of the Biological Diversity Act. Conservation measures needed. Monitoring studies are necessary for determining the present distribution and the population density. On this basis, regions must be specified for measures to be developed in them for the preservation of the species, with a view to creating territories with an optimal structure of the arable lands and for agricultural practices harmful to the hamster not to be used.

References. 1. Kovachev, 1925; 2. Markov, 1960; 3. Hamar & Sutova, 1963; 4. Ionescu, 1968; 5. Auslander & Hellwing, 1957; 6. Schapp, 1968; 7. Simeonov, 1966; 8. Baumgart, 1975; 9. Simeonov, 1985; 10. Simeonov & Petrov, 1986; 11. Simeonov & Boev, 1988; 12. Milchev, B. 2006.

Author: Vasil Popov

Romanian Hamster (distribution map)

Romanian Hamster (drawing)