The tree dormouse has googly black eyes, silver fur, and a bushy tail. It may look like a cuddly toy, but it is a nocturnal omnivore. Like the dormouse, the tree dormouse belongs to the genus Bilche. It is heavily protected under the European Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive.
Search campaign with nest boxes
For two years, the federal forests have been looking for the animals throughout Austria together with the nature conservation association as part of a project. Forester Anna-Sophie Pirtscher has been out and about in the Postalm area for two summers to find animal tracks. There are a total of 30 nesting boxes distributed over 15 locations.
Photo series with 8 pictures
Every time she opens such a nesting box, “it’s nerve-racking,” Pirtscher said. “There might be a tree dormouse in there. But even if it’s ‘just’ a dormouse – I find these animals very, very cute and always exciting when you have such encounters.”
Find during shooting “is gigantic”
And indeed: During the ORF shoot, Pirtscher discovered a sleeping tree dormouse in a nesting box – for her “absolutely” a small sensation: “Finally finding a tree dormouse after two years and holding it in your hands is gigantic. That’s great.”
For the forest manager of the Bundesforste, the find on the Postalm also means something else: “We are right that there are tree dormouse in these areas here.” The last evidence of this animal here was “around 20 years ago”: “There a cat caught a tree dormouse and someone documented it. But nobody has known since then if he’s still there.” But obviously he’s still there – and quite relaxed.
Successful search for tree dormouse
Animal eats winter fat at night
The tree dormouse was also not woken up by the forester and the camera – the animal must have been quite nocturnal, says Pirtscher: “I assume that he is still diligently collecting supplies for the winter so that he can eat his winter fat. He has about two weeks left before he should go into hibernation mode.”
The aim of the project is to find out more about the tree dormouse. That’s only possible if you know where he is, emphasizes the forester: “That’s why we hope that as many people as possible will report if they find one, have a photo if the cat brings you along – so that you know where his.” Dissemination is and what can be done to encourage it.”
Inhabitants of mixed forests, otherwise little known
The tree dormouse feels comfortable in mixed forests near streams. It nests mainly in tree cavities or old bird nests. So far, however, very little is known about the shy animals: “We know that it exists, we know that it lives in the forest and eats seeds, nuts and insects. But we don’t really know much more than that.”
The tree dormouse discovered during the shoot was allowed to sleep in the warm nesting box again after a few minutes – so that it is fit to search for food at night.