Lutra 55(1)_Kuipers et al_2012

The diet of the garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) in the Netherlands in summer and autumn

The food of the last remaining population of garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) in the Netherlands is studied by means of analysing faecal samples, collected in the summer and autumn of the year 2010. In total 139 scat samples were collected from 51 different nest boxes. The samples were visually analysed for the presence (or absence) of different animal and vegetable food items using a stereo microscope. Millipedes (Diplopoda), beetles (Coleoptera) and snails (Gastropoda) were found to be the main animal food sources. Important vegetable food remains were the fruit pulp of apples, pears and seeds. The identified seeds were the remains of blackberries (Rubus ssp.) and elderberries (Sambucus nigra). The results were skewed by someone feeding the garden dormice with apples and pears. All the other food items were collected by the garden dormice themselves. These animal and vegetable food sources were present in more than 20% of the samples. Hymnopterans (Hymenoptera), earthworms (Lumbricidae), spiders (Araneae), harvestmen (Opiliones) and wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) were present in 5% to 20% of the samples. Flies (Diptera), true bugs (Heteroptera), woodlice (Isopoda), pseudoscorpions (Pseudoscorpiones), butterfly larvae (caterpillars) (Lepidoaptera), songbirds (Passeriformes) and flowers were occasionally found. Invertebrates, especially millipedes, are the staple food during the entire active feeding period. In spring and early summer the garden dormouse eats relatively more vertebrates (possibly mainly the nestlings of birds and mice), gastropods, beetles and flowers, than in August-November. The first seeds of berries were identified in the beginning of August. The occurrence of seeds increased rapidly to 90% at the end of August and then decreased to 30% in September and 0% by the end of October. Garden dormice in woods seem to depend on the rich invertebrate fauna within the litter layer. Mesotrophic mull soils have a rich fauna of medium-sized to large invertebrates and these soils are disappearing from the Savelsbos as a result of traditional management practices being abandoned. Re-establishment of species-rich wood types that produce mesotrophic mull soils could be of benefit to the remnant population of garden dormouse in the Savelsbos.