Alsace’s common hamster, perfusion species

Nathaniel Herzberg

Written today at 18:30.

The curious bit was invited this Friday, May 13, to the city of Geispolsheim, a few kilometers from Strasbourg. Under the finally grayed sky, in the wheat feet wet from the first rains of the month, the beaters advance. Being at a distance of several meters from each other, they beat the plastic containers with sticks. The choreography is completely unfamiliar, as their noise is still largely overshadowed by the traffic noise from the Strasbourg-Mulhouse motorway, which borders on the plot. But human ears are by no means the target of the operation. “This is a prerequisite for the release of hamsterswarned Marie Frolinger, Naturoparc’s conservation manager in Yunawier (Haut-Rhin), who is coordinating troops on the ground this morning. We make sure that there are no foxes and other predators on the site. Then let’s move on to releases. Be careful not to crush the wheat too hard, especially around the burrows, otherwise the rodents will become too easy prey for predators. And beware of bites, they are wild animals. Then we will conduct electricity in the fences. »

At the CNRS laboratory in Strasbourg, May 13, 2022, Caroline Habold, head of research, prepares a hamster before being sent to the fields.
Veterinarian Fabrice Capbert weighs each hamster in the CNRS laboratory before they are released into the field.  Strasbourg, 13 May 2022

Everyone around listens to it, even if almost everyone knows the music. Neither the village overseer, who took office last year, nor the road workers who trained the preterriers. But most of the rest are on the third, fifth or even tenth operation. The first of four editions of the season, which will release a total of 500 rodents, was attended by everyone: various civil services, the agricultural chamber, plot owners, scientists involved in the program, employees of various farms and even German television, eager to compare French methods of repopulating endangered species with methods applied beyond the Rhine.

The search is completed, the main operation begins. In groups of three or four, the detachment passes along the entire length of the site. Orange stakes indicate the location of preterriers dug to accommodate animals, a vertical hole, another sloping, as is customary for the species. “Something that will give them their first shelter and accustom them to the outside environment, and then they will go and make their own hole in another place”says Fabrice Capber, veterinarian in charge of the farms.

From the “spit” on which they are suspended, the cage is first unhooked, turned over, then the bottom opens. With a more or less benevolent attitude, the rodents fall into an 80-centimeter hole, where some dry food, a piece of apple and a carrot await them. We give a boost to the most recalcitrant, or rather blow in the face. “I was bitten once, ended up in the emergency room, I won’t fool again”says Fabrice Capber. Then two lumps come to block the hole, which the most daring will blow up after a few minutes, others after a few hours of patience, or even more.

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