Predation and survival in reintroduced populations of the Common hamster Cricetus cricetus in the Netherlands

Maurice J.J. La Haye*, Ruud J.M. van Kats, Gerard J.D.M. Müskens, Caspar A. Hallmann, Eelke Jongejans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

European populations of Common hamster (Cricetus cricetus) have dramatically declined in the last decades, and in many EU countries, the species is on the brink of extinction. In the Netherlands, a research and reintroduction program was started in three areas with hamster-friendly management to reverse the decline of the species. Since 2002, more than 800 captive-bred and wild-born hamsters were monitored using implant radiotransmitters to quantify survival rates and discover the main causes of death after release compared to those of wild individuals. Individuals with a transmitter were regularly checked at their burrow. Predation by foxes, birds of prey, and small mustelids was the most important cause of mortality of this medium-sized rodent, while crop type and harvest regime were also likely to be important drivers as they influenced survival rates through the presence or absence of protective cover. The fitted weekly survival model showed that male hamsters had much lower survival rates during the active season than females, which corresponds with the ‘risky male hypothesis’. Survival rates of females appeared too low to keep populations at a stable level. To establish a viable population, more optimal environmental conditions for both survival and reproduction of the hamsters are necessary. Using electric fences around fields with hamsters significantly increased the survival of females. However, hamster conservationists need to consider not just subadult and adult survival rates, but also habitat connectivity, weather effects on reproduction, and alternative agricultural practices on a landscape scale.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMammalian Biology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Predation
  • Reintroduction
  • Reproduction
  • Rodent
  • Survival
  • Transmitter

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