Forest dormouse

The forest dormouse is a mammal from the order of rodents. These cute cute animals are so small that adults can easily fit in the palm of a person. The long fluffy tail that dormouse can boast of makes them look like a squirrel, and the contrasting color of the fur, which ranges from yellowish-orange to gray, olive, adds an elegant look to the animal.

Origin of species and description

Photo: Forest dormouse

Photo: Forest dormouse

The dormouse family includes 28 species and reaches 9 genera. In Europe, the distribution area is confined to the oak area. In Asia and the Caucasus, dormouse lives in forests of various types. The western limit of habitat is the northern slope of the Alps. In the region of Southern Europe, these animals are common on the Balkan Peninsula and partly in Greece. And on the Apennine Peninsula, animals live only in the Calabrian mountains. While dormouse inhabits Eastern Europe almost completely, with the exception of northern Poland, and in Ukraine it cannot be found in the Crimea and the Black Sea regions.

Distributed throughout the territory of the Republic of Belarus. Small populations are found in Asia Minor, northern Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, western China, and northern Afghanistan. The eastern boundary of the species habitat is the western slope of the Mongolian Altai.

On the territory of the Russian Federation, forest dormouse is found in the Pskov, Novgorod, Tver regions, also in the north-west of the Kirov region and the south-west of the Volga region.

In the European part of Russia, the range border runs along the right bank of the Don River. Rodents are found in the North Caucasus from the Kuban River basin and to the south, capturing almost the entire Caucasian region. It occurs in the forests of Central Asia, Southern Altai, Eastern Kazakhstan. In the mountains, dormouse can climb up to 3000 m, reaching even a rocky belt.

Appearance and features

Photo: Animal forest dormouse

Photo: Wood Dormouse Animal

Outwardly, these small-sized animals can easily be confused with a squirrel, or a mouse, a vole. The length of their body reaches 13 cm, while the tail is as much as 17 cm, and the mass is a maximum of 40 grams. The muzzle of the dormouse is elongated, vibrissae are located on it – sensitive mustaches. With the help of them, the animals sense the environment. Vibrissae are mobile, each bundle is responsible for a separate group of muscles. Often they reach 20% of the entire body length of dormouse.

The eyes are relatively large, dark, shiny. Ears are medium in size, rounded. The hind limbs are noticeably larger relative to the forelimbs. They have 5 fingers each, while the front ones have 4. The legs are thin and short. Females are usually smaller than males.

The fluffy flattened tail serves not only as an ornament of the animal, but also helps to maintain balance when moving along the crowns of trees. The skin of the tail is equipped with many blood vessels, which helps determine the mood of the dormouse. When the animal is calm, the coat is in a pressed position. But if the dormouse is angry or frightened, the tail shaft turns dark pink, and the fur fluffs up like a cat to appear larger to its opponent.

Flexible fingers help forest dormouse confidently climb trees, cling to thin twigs. On the paws there are 6 large and convex calluses. From above, the animal has a grayish color, a black stripe leads from nose to ear. The underside is white or light yellow. The dormouse has 20 teeth in its mouth.

Where does the forest dormouse live?

Photo: What the forest dormouse looks like

Photo: What the forest dormouse looks like

The main requirement of the animal to the habitat is broad-leaved forests with a layer of shrubs and dense undergrowth. Sometimes dormouse settle in gardens, mixed forests, forest edges, clearings, as well as bushes and mountains.

These rodents settle in hollows, do not disdain abandoned bird nests, and can also build their own. The animals use oak bark, moss, leaves and small branches as materials. They insulate their nests with wool and down. For the construction «houses» Sonya takes 2-3 days. Sometimes they can drive out its inhabitants from the birdhouse and settle there themselves. Animals often settle in the bushes, as the thorns of the plants make their shelter inaccessible to many predators.

Shorts, preparing to become parents, generously insulate their nests, stuffing them with fur, at least half. Single individuals, on the contrary, build their houses carelessly, sometimes without even insulating them. In such shelters, rodents usually spend no more than 3-4 days, resting in them during the day. Then they look for a new home.

As a rule, there is no entrance to such dwellings. In constant expectation of danger, forest dormouse can jump out of the shelter through any crack. On the site of residence of one animal there can be up to 8 such houses. This is due not only to the desire to be safe, but also the ability to leave the nest at any time if it becomes dirty or populated with parasites. In winter, dormouse dig holes for themselves about 30 cm deep, under roots or heaps of brushwood, so as not to freeze on the surface, and hibernate for 5 months.

What does the forest dormouse eat?

Photo: Wood dormouse

Photo: Rodent forest dormouse

Since the dormouse is a nocturnal animal, during the day it sleeps in its shelter, and in the evening it goes in search of food. Their food is varied. Dormouse is not whimsical in food.

Their diet includes:

  • seeds and fruits of trees, plants, shrubs (hazelnuts, linden nuts, rose hips, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries , acorns, hawthorn fruits);
  • southern dormice manage to eat apricots, apples, plums, grapes, pumpkin, melon and watermelon seeds;
  • in early spring, dormice feed on buds, bark of willow shoots, bird cherry, aspen;
  • do not disdain the seeds of berries containing hydrocyanic acid.

Although the animals prefer plant foods, if on their way they meet a bird’s nest with newborn chicks or eggs, the dormouse will definitely eat them. They also eat various insects, their larvae and worms, as well as snails and mollusks.

Thanks to their keen hearing, dormouse pick up the quietest sounds of insect movement. Having stopped for a moment to accurately determine the source of the sound, the animal easily finds and catches prey. Small lizards or other rodents can become an excellent lunch for these animals.

Depending on the habitat of animals, both plant and animal foods can predominate in their diet. Dormouse, as a rule, do not stock up on food for the winter, but sometimes they can stock up in hollows.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Forest dormouse

Photo: Forest dormouse

Although forests and shrubs are considered to be favorite habitats for dormouse, you can also meet it in a park area or garden. Some animals choose a tree-terrestrial way of life, the rest are only terrestrial. The former spend most of their lives in trees. Usually, the dormouse is active only at night, but during the rutting period, the animal can be found during the day. Usually they lead a bachelor lifestyle, they live in families only during the breeding season.

With the onset of severe cold, dormouse hibernates. By this time, they accumulate a large amount of subcutaneous fat, and therefore they can become 2 times heavier by winter. The body temperature in the sleeping state drops significantly. If in the summer in the active state it reaches 38 C, then during the hibernation period it is 4-5 C, or even less.

If by the time of their awakening the cold is still holding, then the animal can return to the mink and sleep more. Immediately after hibernation, the breeding season begins and dormice are looking for partners. Sony is very clean. They can spend many hours combing their fur, carefully going through every hair on the tail. In the wild, they can live up to 6 years. You can tame them only if you catch them as cubs. Dormouse do not like to be taken with bare hands.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Forest Dormouse Animal

Photo: Forest Dormouse Animal

Opposite-sex dormice are together for a very short period of life. In the spring they begin mating games. Males wake up from hibernation earlier than females and start marking trees. They eat heavily to recuperate after a long sleep. About a week later, the females also emerge from the minks. At night they make a loud whistle, «singing» sounds and leave their marks near the marks of males.

During the breeding season, they live in pairs in the same nest. But just before giving birth, the female forcibly kicks out the male. Her pregnancy lasts about 28 days. After their passage, up to 8 cubs are born. Basically, the offspring is 1 time per year. On the eve of childbirth, the female becomes especially economic and constantly repairs and insulates the shelter. With a large amount of food, dormouse can settle in one nest even with families.

Little dormice are born naked and blind, and on the first day they weigh about 2 g. A caring mother is always with the offspring, feeds and warms the children, going out for a short while to feed and closing the nest hole. If one of the babies is missing, the mother finds him by squeaking and brings him back.

At the age of 2 weeks, the cubs fully open their eyes and soon they will be able to independently climb tree branches and find food for themselves. At the age of 45 days, they become independent and leave the nest.

Natural enemies of the forest dormouse

Photo: What the forest dormouse looks like

Photo: What the forest dormouse looks like

The main enemy of these rodents is the gray owl, a medium-sized owl. Its body length reaches 38 cm and weight up to 600 g. Its wingspan reaches 1 m, and the color can vary from gray to reddish or dark brown.

The whole body is covered with dark and light spots. The eyes are black. This species of owls lives in mixed types, deciduous and coniferous forests, parks and gardens. It nests most often in hollows, in which it lives for many years, resting in them in winter. Can settle in old nests of predators, natural niches. Like the forest dormouse, the Tawny Owl lives in the same places and is awake only after sunset.

Population and species status

Photo: Rodent forest dormouse

Photo: Rodent forest dormouse

Within its area of ​​distribution, the stock of forest dormouse in the territory of the former USSR is unevenly distributed. On the European part in the zone of mixed deciduous forests (Belovezhye, Russian and Belarusian reserves, forest-steppe Ukraine), its numbers are common, but in general terms it is small.

In the northeast (Pskov, Tver, the Volga region, the Baltic states), this type of dormouse is becoming less and less. In these areas, the forest dormouse is listed in the Red Book and requires some attention as a vulnerable and rare endangered species. Over the past 20 years of observations of the species at the VSU biocenter, it was revealed that only 1 forest dormouse and several hazel dormouse were caught per 9,800 trap-nights. At the same time, during the inspection of titmouses, 8 adults and 2 broods of 6 young animals were found.

There is no concern about the number of these animals in the mountainous regions – the Carpathians, the Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Kodry, in Kopet-Dag, Central Asia. Forest dormouse animals are not against the neighborhood of a person. They willingly settle in orchards, vineyards, walnut groves. In Moldova, there are especially many dormouse due to forest belts of wild apricot, plantings of white acacia, caragana. From which we can conclude that the forest dormouse requires special protection and protection in the territory of the CIS countries in the north-eastern part of its habitats.

Protection of the forest dormouse

Photo: Animal forest dormouse

Photo: Animal forest dormouse

The forest dormouse species is listed in the Red Book of several regions of Russia – Kursk, Oryol, Tambov and Lipetsk regions. This variety of dormouse is under the protection of the Vienna Convention at the international level. Also, forest dormouse is listed on the IUCN Red List as a species that needs constant monitoring and observation.

The main factors in the disappearance of these animals are:

  • forestry activities, which every year more and more destroy a huge number of shelters of forest dormouse;
  • sanitary felling and clearing of old broad-leaved forests;
  • a significant reduction in the area of ​​natural forest stands;
  • poor undergrowth development;
  • poor harvest;
  • reduction in the number of old hollow trees.

Oksky reserve in the Ryazan region, in Belarus, Berezinsky, Voronezh and Khoper protected areas protect the habitats of forest dormouse and identify new ones for their conservation, prohibiting all types of forestry activities. VGPBZ and KhSPZ protect the species and carry out measures to preserve natural forest biocenoses.

Fans of this species of animals are not recommended to catch forest dormouse and bring it home. It is better to take the baby in specialized stores. The first purchase for the animal should be a large cage. You should not allow her to arbitrarily walk around the house, otherwise the forest dormouse will definitely run away through the first gap that comes across.

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