The hamsters have conquered the hearts of pet lovers, including me! But did you know that these cute and 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 more than 18 species of hamsters in different parts of the world. Most of them come from Eurasia, especially from 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 hamsterThe hamster is probably the best known species of hamster. Native to the Middle East, this animal is mainly present in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Israel. It usually lives in semi-arid areas, 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 and sandy regions where it can easily dig burrows for shelter. This hamster is also adapted to extreme climatic conditions since it is able to resist to temperatures going from -20°C to 40°C.
The Russian dwarf hamster
The Russian dwarf hamster lives mainly in the steppes of Eurasia, from Kazakhstan to Western Siberia. It can be found in meadows as well as in arid or swampy 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, ranging from deserts and grasslands to forests and farmlands. They adapt to different ecosystems according to their needs, which allows them to survive in different 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.
Due to the expansion of thehuman 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 have a considerable impact on the natural habitat of wild hamsters. The destruction of their environment to make way for urbanization and farms is progressively reducing their living areas, 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 constitute the food of wild hamsters. In addition, the fragmentation of their habitat limits the possibilities of population expansion, which can lead to a reduction in genetic diversity and increase the risk of extinction.
Pollution and the use of pesticides
Human activities are also responsible for soil, water and air pollution, which can have a negative impact on the health of wild hamsters. The use of pesticides in agricultural crops can contaminate water sources and food consumed by these small mammals, causing problems in reproduction and development.
Wild hamsters face other challenges such as natural predators (snakes, birds of prey, foxes), which can attack them. When their habitat is destroyed or altered, it becomes more difficult for hamsters to protect themselves from these predators.