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Garden Dormouse (Elyomis quercinus)

Diputación de Málaga
Lirón careto baja ARL

Garden Dormouse (Elyomis quercinus)

MediosLand
Phenology
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Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals

Identification

It is a rodent (animal with a pair of incisor teeth in continuous growth) of medium size (head-body length 10 to 17 cm) characterized by having a black mask that covers the face and eyes. The dorsal coat is brown or reddish brown and the belly is white.  It has a long brown hairy tail (9 to 13.5 cm), ending in a black brush. The ears are big and conspicuous. It has black outstanding eyes. The snout is elongated. There is no visible differences between males and females.

Where does it live?

This forest species is present in many habitats, from sea level to 1500 m. It prefers pine forests and holm oaks, but it is also present in rural dwellings, deciduous forests, scrub areas, rocky piles, walls of boundaries, gardens or crops such as the olive grove, where it is usually abundant. 

How does it live?

This animal feeds on fruits and insects. It does not have a very strict diet. It consumes what is available at any time. It catches small mammals, chickens and bird eggs. It has climbing and arboreal habits, we can see it in the wooden beams of rural buildings and tree branches. It is nocturnal, with a certain degree of activity during the day. It is gregarious and lives in family groups. It makes nests on tree branches or occupies birds nests. It also uses tree holes or hollows in barns and roofs. Dormice hibernate and have summer breaks. During the colder season (winter) and warmest months (July and August), they become lethargic and rest in their nests, waiting for a  more favourable climate. Before hibernation, they consume more autumn fruits and acorns.

How does it reproduce?

Dormice have communal nests. The rutting period depends on food availability, as in most rodents. Normally there is only one mating period in spring (from February to March), which can be extended (from February to October), with two spring and autumn peaks. They usually give birth twice a year (2 to 8 offspring).

Where can we see it in Málaga?

This species is present all over the province, although it is not very abundant. It is common in the olive groves and holm oaks of the Antequera region and the north-eastern province. In the Great Path, we can find it for example on stages 8, 11, 12, 16, 22 and 23 to 31.

Curious facts

"Sleeping like a dormouse" is a popular saying really linked to this species habits. Hibernation is a process suffered by some animals, including this one, which involves a sleep or lethargy during the hardest months of heat or cold. The dormice enter a deep sleep during which they reduce their heart rate and body temperature in order to minimize energy expenditure. The summer rest is usually less deep than in winter, but cold, heat and drought are factors that reduce dormice possibilities of movement and feeding, making it more efficient to sleep and do nothing. The compensation is that during that sleep they lose up to 50% of their body weight. That is why before going to sleep, they eat a lot of fruits and very caloric foods. The Latin name of these "masked sleepers" refers to the fact that they are vagrant (eleos) mice (mis) associated with oaks (quercinus).

Similar species

It is an unmistakable species; its mask differentiates it perfectly from any other rodent.

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