Microtrip Vienna – European Ground Squirrel and Field Hamster

I recently traveled through Vienna and saw European Ground Squirrel (souslik) and Field Hamsters.

European Ground Squirrels were on suburban fields between the railway stations Zentralfriedhof and Oberlaa, reasonably close to the airport. Two sousliks were seen, both on grassy strips bordering vineyards, which is said to be their favorite habitat. They were shy and binoculars were needed for good observation. Also seen were Swallowtail, two Scarce Swallowtails, Field Hare and Roe Deer. The nearby city cemetery Zentralfriedhof did not produce any hamsters, despite featuring in the BBC documentary. There were two unusually fearless Roe Deer. This is a vast area, and I did not even find likely burrows. I moved to the underground station Meidling and the Meidling Friedhof. It was much smaller urban cemetery, and I saw 6 Field Hamsters within 45 minutes, rather unafraid of people.

Hopefully, next summer travel will be possible for everybody, so below is the background information with useful maps. Apparently, sousliks live even on the airport grounds, although the best place is north of the city. Note that both rodents hibernate and are active only from about May to early August.





  • Pieter de Groot Boersma

    Hi Jurek,

    I’m travelling Europe right now. I think I will be in Vienna around the 15th/16th of August. So is that definetely too late?

    Best regards,

    Pieter de Groot Boersma

  • Jurek2

    Hi, I am not really a specialist here. I think sousliks are becoming progressively less and less active during August. Hamsters should be active.

    • Pieter de Groot Boersma

      Hi Jurek,

      Thanks you for your reply. Where did you get your information from? Maybe I van contact your source.

      I’m heading to the Desman location tomorrow for a few days. So no reception there…

      Hope to hear it!

      • Mattia from Italy

        In August both are still very active, and even in the first half of September, Vienna is not Arctic…

  • Vladimir Dinets

    I don’t think hamsters hibernate. There are records from Siberia of dwarf hamsters tunnelling into souslik burrows in winter and eating the hibernating owners.

    • Pieter de Groot Boersma

      I read that domestic hamsters (at least the dwarfs) enter torpor instead of a real hibernating state.

    • Pieter de Groot Boersma

      Also, the Field Hamster in the Netherlands (where it is extremely rare) start hibernating/torpor from October. In dimmer, 20 hours of sleep per day supposedly. Early morning/evening best.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    So I checked the literature (Mammals of Russia by Dinets & Rotshild, 1998): smaller hamster species only go into torpor, while larger ones can hibernate in very cold weather, but in either case it’s normally only for a few days at a time. However, they store food for the winter, so don’t have to show up on surface very often. If someone really needs to look for them in winter, I’d recommend trying on the first warm day after a cold spell.

  • Karine Bigot

    Hi all,
    Thanks all for sharing !!!
    Hope it is to too late for asking, I am planning to go to Vienna for a week to look for the sousliks and the hamsters end of April (24-30 April) this year, is this too early?
    thanks for your answer !

    • Jon Hall

      Hi Karine. I am not sure and I hope someone else sees this who knows about Vienna … but I know Sousliks were already active in Hungary in early March so I guess they should be around. It should also be warm enough for the hamsters. But hopefully someone knows for sure!

      • Bigot

        Thanks Jon, so far I was not able to find any information on the Sousliks. Good that you can confirm April might not be too early. For the Hamsters, I found they slow down the activity at 5-10°C and Vienna seems to be warmer at that period. Good chance to see them 🙂
        Any other information from anyone would still be highly welcomed. thanks in advance 🙂

  • KimDeB

    Thanks for the post. I’m going to Vienna next week but unfortunately the weather forecast is mainly rain. Do either the hamsters or the sousliks come out at all in the rain, or even if it is overcast? Thanks!

    • Jon Hall

      I don’t think it being overcast will have much of an impact. Heavy rain is unlikely to help so I would be focusing on moments when the rain is not so heavy. But I’ve not spent much time looking for these species in wet weather.


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