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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 31:119-145 (2016)  -  DOI:

Dramatic global decrease in the range and reproduction rate of the European hamster Cricetus cricetus

Alexey Surov1, Agata Banaszek2, Pavel Bogomolov1, Natalia Feoktistova1, Stefanie Monecke3,*

1Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Science, Leninsky pr. 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia
2Institute of Biology, University of Białystok, Ciołkowskiego 1J, 15-245 Białystok, Poland
3Institute of Chronoecology, Bismarckstr. 1, 77694 Kehl, Germany

ABSTRACT: Although the European hamster is probably the fastest-declining Eurasian mammal, its IUCN Red List status is still Least Concern. In addition to the huge distribution area, this categorization is based on the assumptions (1) that the decline affects only Western Europe, where (2) modern agriculture has led to (3) an increase in the mortality of the species. Since mortality-reducing protection measures in Western Europe have been unable to stop the decline, we reviewed the literature from 1765 to the present and reappraised the situation. We found support for none of these assumptions. The species has also vanished from more than 75% of its range in Central and Eastern Europe. In 48 of 85 Russian, Belarussian, Ukrainian and Moldovan provinces, its relative occurrence has decreased. It is now rare in 42 provinces and extinct in 8. Mortality has not increased, but the reproduction rate has shrunk since 1954 throughout the distribution area. Today the reproduction rate is only 23% of that between 1914 and 1935. Taking into account the mortality of this prey species, 1 female today raises only 0.5 females for next year’s reproduction. The extrapolation of the literature data points to an extinction of the species between 2020 and 2038. We strongly recommend (1) changing the status of the European hamster on the IUCN Red List from Least Concern at least to Vulnerable or even Endangered and (2) supporting scientific research on the reproduction of European hamsters as a protection measure. Global threats such as climate change, light pollution or (in the past) fur trapping are more likely to be the ultimate reason for the decline of this species than modern agriculture.

KEY WORDS: Cricetus cricetus · Distribution · Reproduction · Climate change · Light pollution · Global threats

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Cite this article as: Surov A, Banaszek A, Bogomolov P, Feoktistova N, Monecke S (2016) Dramatic global decrease in the range and reproduction rate of the European hamster Cricetus cricetus. Endang Species Res 31:119-145.

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