The hamsters have captured the hearts of pet lovers like me! But did you know that these cute, affectionate little creatures also exist in the wild? Fortunately, not all of them are in captivity.
Let's explore together the different regions where hamsters live and their natural habitat.
Geographical origins of hamsters
There are over 18 species of hamster in different parts of the world. Most come from Eurasia, notably Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. The main geographical areas where hamsters live in the wild are :
- Eastern Europe The European hamsters are mainly found here and are generally larger than the other species.
- Middle East This region is home to several types of hamsters, such as the golden hamster and Roborovski's hamster.
- Central Asia Djungarian hamsters and Campbell's dwarf hamsters are native to this area.
Among the best known species, we find the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), the Roborovski hamster (Phodopus roborovskii) or the dwarf hamster Russian (Phodopus sungorus). Each of these species has specific needs and a distinct natural habitat:
The golden hamster
The golden hamster, also called Syrian hamsteris probably the best-known species of hamster. Native to the Middle East, this animal is mainly found in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Israel. It generally lives in semi-arid zones, such as steppes and desert areas, where it digs burrows to protect itself from predators and rest during the day.
Roborovski's hamster is a small mammal native to the desert areas of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. It prefers arid, sandy regions where it can easily dig burrows for shelter. This hamster is also adapted to extreme climatic conditions, being able to withstand temperatures ranging from -20°C to 40°C.
The Russian dwarf hamster
The Russian dwarf hamster lives mainly on the steppes of Eurasia, from Kazakhstan to western Siberia. It can be found in meadows as well as in arid or marshy areas. This small mammal also builds burrows to protect itself from bad weather and predators.
Natural habitats of wild hamsters
Hamsters in the wild occupy a variety of habitats, from deserts and grasslands to forests and farmland. They adapt to different ecosystems according to their needs, enabling them to survive in a variety of environments.
Deserts and semi-arid regions
Some species such as the golden hamster and Roborovski's hamster prefer to live in desert and semi-arid areas. These animals dig burrows to protect themselves from extreme temperatures and predators. Burrows can be quite complex, with several entrances, chambers and underground passages.
Grasslands and steppes
The European hamster is often found in grasslands and steppes, where it also digs burrows for shelter. These habitats offer an abundance of food in the form of seeds, roots and insects. In addition, the vast expanses of grass provide excellent cover from predators.
With the expansion ofhuman activityincluding agricultural cropsIn the past, some hamster species have adapted to living near cultivated fields. For example, the common hamster often lives near agricultural areas where it finds an easy and abundant food source.
Threats to wild hamsters
Human activity and agricultural culture are having a considerable impact on the natural habitat of wild hamsters. The destruction of their environment to make way for urbanization and farms is gradually reducing their living territories, forcing them to adapt to conditions that are sometimes less favorable to their survival.
Key threats include:
Habitat destruction and population fragmentation
The transformation of natural areas into urbanized or agricultural zones leads to the destruction of many plant and animal species that provide food for wild hamsters. In addition, habitat fragmentation limits population expansion, which can lead to a reduction in genetic diversity and increase the risk of extinction.
Pollution and pesticide use
Human activities are also responsible for soil, water and air pollution, which can have a detrimental impact on the health of wild hamsters. The use of pesticides in agricultural crops can contaminate water sources and the food consumed by these small mammals, causing reproductive and developmental problems.
Wild hamsters face other challenges too, such as natural predators (snakes, birds of prey, foxes), which can prey on them. When their habitat is destroyed or altered, it becomes more difficult for hamsters to protect themselves from these predators.