The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is a rodent in the dormouse family.
Dormice are typically 4 to 6 inches long (10 to 15 cm), with the tail adding an additional 3 to 5.75 inches (8 to 14.5 cm). It weighs 2 to 5 ounces (60 to 140 g). The coat is gray or brown, with a white underside. The garden dormouse can be recognized by black eye markings. It has relatively large ears, short hair, and a white tassel at the end of the tail.
Range and habitat
In spite of its name, the garden dormouse’s main habitat is the forest. It can also be found in fruit-growing regions. It is particularly common in southern Europe, but its range extends into the north. Garden dormice are often found in the Alps, in the Bavarian Forest, and in the Ore Mountains. The species is also present in northern Germany, but the population there is apparently not capable of large-scale reproduction.
Way of life
Garden dormice are primarily nocturnal. They sleep in spherical nests in trees during the day. At night they look for food, mainly eating larger insects like grasshoppers and beetles. They also eat snails, eggs, young nestlings, small mice, and spiders, as well as berries, fruit, and nuts like acorns and beechnuts. While omnivorous, the diet of dormice contains slightly more animal protein than vegetation.
The mating period lasts from April to June. During this time, the female indicates her readiness to mate by squeaking loudly. The young are usually born in litters of three to seven, after a gestation period of 23 days. Blind and naked at birth, they open their eyes after about eighteen days. They are nursed until they are one month old. They become independent at two months of age, but do not reach sexual maturity until the next year. They have a life expectancy of about five years.
It is not unusual for a garden dormouse to eat one of its unfortunate rivals during the mating season. Cannibalism is also observed occasionally when the animal is coming out of hibernation.