A rarity on the North Campus - the European Hamster

The European Hamster was once a common inhabitant of our fields in the productive “Bördeland-landscapes” and was even considered a vermin because it feeds on cereals and other crops. However, the situation has deteriorated drastically for this co-inhabitant of our cultivated landscape: Gone are the small-scale alternation of different crops, the multitude of seed-bearing weeds in the fields as food, the insects as protein-rich food, and the long harvest season that allowed it to collect its underground winter stock. Unfortunately, the field hamster has become a worldwide rarity. Because of dramatic population declines and large range losses, but especially because of negative future prospects, the hamster has been classified as "critically endangered" on the new IUCN International Red List of Threatened Species worldwide (IUCN 2020, Banaszek et al. 2020). The hamster is also listed as "critically endangered" on the Red List of Mammals of Germany (Meinig et al. 2020). In Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, wild populations have become extinct and only conservation breeding and reintroductions built up the last remaining small populations. Most recently, the field hamster became extinct in Saxony.

On the north campus of the University of Göttingen there are still hamsters - so this is a real rarity worldwide. In the Göttingen area, the hamster is presumably now also extinct in the surrounding agricultural landscape, so for the city and district of Göttingen it is now the last remaining population. The 2021 census revealed only 13 inhabited burrows.

The history of the field hamsters on campus has even made it onto the pages of national newspapers, though not always favorably: In 2001, some of the field hamsters had to be relocated because construction was taking place in their habitat on campus. Since the relocation, areas south of the north cafeteria and north of Otto-Hahn-Street have been managed in a way that is suitable for field hamsters, with cereals, various seed mixtures and fallow strips being cultivated in small-scale rotation. A count of burrows is conducted annually on these areas. Especially the core area south of the refectory is colonized in high density in some years. However, the population on these compensation areas is subject to strong fluctuations. There have been years in which approximately 100 burrows have been detected, but several times since 2001 the hamster has also been on the verge of extinction. Such population dynamics are a natural phenomenon in many small mammal populations and are caused (among other factors) by predators such as foxes, domestic cats, and weasels. A population is viable if it is large enough to withstand such fluctuations. Small populations with fluctuations of this magnitude are highly endangered. In the long term, the currently optimized area of a few hectares is too small to secure the future of the hamster in Göttingen. Perhaps reintroductions east of Göttingen in unfragmented agricultural landscapes could, with the appropriate optimization of far more area, offer the field hamster a chance in the region after all. Therefore, the hamsters on campus could still become important "founders". Please support the hamsters on campus by not entering the areas and not disturbing them with dogs running free.

Hamsterfot20112 HamsterGeo23.6.20

Julia Liebing
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Kaufmännisches Gebäudemanagement
Käte-Hamburger-Weg 1, 37073 Göttingen
Phone: 0551 39 27023
Email: julia.liebing@zvw.uni-goettingen.de

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