Edible dormouse

Glis glis

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The European edible dormouse is a species of rodent in the Gliridae family, alongside the forest and hazel dormouse. Its body can reach a length of up to 20 cm long and sport a bushy tail up to 15 cm long. It is rare for people to encounter these nocturnal clamberers. The European edible dormouse relies on its large eyes and ears as well as the whiskers on its nose to navigate in the dark. It prefers mixed woodland habitats with plenty of undergrowth in which to hide. It is increasingly common to spot them in gardens and parks where they seek shelter in hollow tree stumps and old sheds. The European edible dormouse is an outstanding climber on account of its well-adapted build. The balls of its feet are fleshy and, in a similar way to suckers, they allow it to hold on to branches, while it uses its sharp claws to scale flat and slippery surfaces. The European edible dormouse can leap from the end of the smallest branch to another tree a number of meters away. Whilst airborne, it uses its tail to pilot itself. Pine martens, owls and house cats are among its predators. In spring, the European edible dormouse feeds primarily on buds, bark and leaves. As the year progresses, it prefers energy-rich fare, such as beech, acorns and other nuts. It is not, however, a pure vegetarian. Indeed, insects, worms, eggs and even young birds can be found on its menu. It is vital that the European edible dormouse puts on sufficient fat reserves quickly if it is to survive the winter. In September, it will seek out a suitable, frost-free place in which to hibernate; piles of leaves, burrows or human dwellings are most suitable. A family of edible dormice nesting amongst the rafters can make considerable noise. During its eight month-long hibernation, its body temperature will sink to as low as 5° C, while its oxygen intake is drastically reduced and its heart rate will slow down from 300 to 10 bpm. Emergence from hibernation occurs at the end of April or in May and entails numerous phases, which can take a number of hours. Immediately after this the search for a partner is a priority. It appears that the young males “know in advance” if there will be an abundance of food. Their reproductive capacity is influenced by whether the beech and acorn mast is sufficient for feeding offspring. Scientists do not yet know exactly how these mechanisms work. The young are born blind in August, opening their eyes between 21 and 32 days later and immediately begin to put on their fat reserves for the oncoming winter.

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