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.
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.
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 !
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 🙂
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Pieter de Groot Boersma
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?
Pieter de Groot Boersma