All over Slavic lands there are numerous animal species who, if we don’t pay attention, might face extinction. I guess that none of us would miss mosquito, but even those blood thirsty flying vampires have their purpose in our ecosystem (not sure which one it is…), but, there are plenty of those that we might miss, like some cute, little, fluffy rodents, to whom I shall dedicate this article.
1. Balkan snow vole
Latin name for Balkan snow vole is Dinaromys bogdanovi, which means “Dinaric mouse.” A you can guess, this name is given because of the Dinaric Alps, which is the area this creature inhabit. Unfortunately, the already restricted area is getting smaller and smaller for this little fellow, due to the competition with a European snow vole, another rodent species that keeps spreading over the territory.
The preservation of the species is important, because it’s a living fossil, the only living genus in the tribe Pliomyini.
2. Alpine shrew
Alpine shrew is a very small and fragile creature that weights around 10 g, and is not longer than 7.7 centimetres. Various predators, such as cats, weasels, foxes, and owls would gladly make a lunch of this mammal. That’s why it has developed dark brown and greyish colours on its body, which provide a perfect disguise in the forest. This animal is good at climbing, and has a huge appetite. It eats insects, spiders, snails and earthworms, and marks its territory with scent on its flank gland.
3. Romanian hamster (also in Bulgaria)
As the name suggests, this rodent is found in Romania, but also inhabits Bulgaria. As you can see in the image, it has a very interesting colour scheme on its fur, it can reach a length of 18 centimetres, and its weight goes from 80 to 115g. Romanian hamster avoids daylight, and lives in burrows. Its diet consists of seeds, rooted vegetables, and insects. Its cheek pouches are elastic, which allows him to carry food to its storage. These animals communicate by squeaking and ultra-sound.
4. Speckled ground squirrel
This beautiful creature has dark-brown fur with white spots. It reaches the length of 25cm and the weight of 280 g. Its diet is mostly based on grasses and cereals, but it also feeds on small vertebrates and arthropods.
The reasons for raising alarm over this species is the fact that it became endangered due to expansion of agriculture and forestry, as well as the development of the cities. Pollution reduces the area this squirrel can inhabit, but there is also the problem with hunting, as the speckled ground squirrel is an agricultural pest.
5. Giant blind mole rat
The giant mole-rat is also known as Russian mole-rat, and is found only in a limited area of southern Russia. Its diet consists of roots and tubers, and it lives in a burrow that it digs with its teeth. These teeth reach an amazing size, as they are continually growing. The giant mole-rat practices them regularly, in order to keep them sharp and functional. Breeding session lasts for two months: December and January, and females usually produce litters of two or three young.
6. Caucasian mountain ground squirrel
This rodent is active during the day. It lives in burrows, as well as many of its cousins, but due to environmental differences, hibernation period differs. Variety in hibernation period further leads to variations in mating periods. In mountains whose height goes between 1200 and 1400 meters, hibernation ends in March. On higher zones, over 2500 meters, hibernation ends in May. While the end of hibernation depends on outside factors, the beginning of hibernation depends on inner factor: the amount of accumulated fat.
7. Caucasian birch mouse
This species of rodent is endemic to Russia. As many other species, it suffers due to increased exploitation of the area it inhabits. The popularity of winter sports and development of tourism brought numerous humans to the mountains, limiting the area where this mouse can safely inhabit.
8. Sandy mole rat
This rodent species is endemic to Ukraine, where it has a stable population in Black Sea State Reserve. Outside the reserve the population is declining, because of the afforestation of the sands. The sandy soils need to be moderately wet, in order to become habitat for sandy mole rat. This rodent loves light, and requires very sparse vegetation, as it feeds on the plants that are abundant in its range.
9. Podolian mole rat
Podolian mole rat can be found in central Ukraine, but is also found on the east, near the Polish border, as well on the south, near the Moldovan border. As all other mole rats, it lives in the tunnels it digs.
Its body reaches the length of 23 centimeters, with the tail that can be 3 centimeters long. Its fur is soft, dense, and colored in yellowish brown.
10. Balkan mole rat
As the name suggests, this rodent is present on Balkan. Agricultural intensification has a massive impact on this species, as it inhabits pastures, cultivated fields and orchards. It digs elaborate tunnel system with nesting chambers, eats bulbs, roots, and other underground parts of the plants, so yes, we can consider it for quite a pest. But, this animal has something that no other rodent has: lack of external opening for the eyes, even though those exist under the skin. This characteristic, makes Balkan mole rat special, and worth saving.