Chances are that you had a hamster as a pet growing up; a lot of people do. Hamsters are very friendly, incredibly adorable and easy to keep as a pet, and so they are regarded as one of the most popular pets since the 1930s. However, the cute hamsters that you have in your house have several cousins out in the wild.
Yes, hamsters are wild animals. Over the course of time, hamsters have evolved to develop certain characteristics that help them survive in the wild. While you may be tempted to admire this cute little fellow when you’re out on a survival trip in the wilderness, self-sustenance will come before everything. So, if it comes to that, how would you be able to hunt some wild hamsters down? Where would you find them? Do you need any special equipment to catch them?
This article delves into every aspect of wild hamster hunting to help you answer all of these questions.
But first, let us get to know more about this furry animal, where it comes from and how it ends up in our homes.
You might be also interested in: A Life in the Wild: A Complete Guide
Evolution of Wild Hamsters
Wild hamsters were first spotted in countries like Syria, northern parts of China, Greece, Belgium, and Romania. In these hot areas, these small creatures make their home in sand dunes, and when they feel a shift in the weather, they go underground.
Hamsters are classified into 24 different species worldwide. Since a lot of wild hamsters live in landscapes where the fluctuation of temperature is significant, these hamsters share a food gathering method that is similar to a lot of animals in the wild. When food is available, hamsters collect a large number of meals beforehand to prepare for any shortages in the future. Because of how they use this method, hamsters have evolved in such a way that they can store food in the flaps of their mouth.
These flaps are known as cheek pouches. And these cheek pouches help them to carry delicious treats back to their burrow and save it for later.
Another way that these hamsters have evolved is in their looks or colors. While Syrian hamsters have been domesticated for a long time, their cousins still bear markings and colors that indicate their wild past. You will find that these wild hamsters have color variations like brown or gray backside with a pale stomach.
These colors help these small creatures protect themselves against predators by camouflaging themselves in the wilderness. And their pale stomach helps them to reflect the heat coming from the stones when they go food hunting during the night.
The reason Syrian hamsters don’t look like their brothers and sisters in the wild is that these hamsters have been through a lot of breeders. On the other hand, Chinese hamsters, even when domesticated, carry the color of its wild counterparts.
However, this extensive breeding has had very little effect on the nocturnal nature of the hamsters. Hamsters are most active during the night, scavenging food. However, hamsters can shift their sleep schedule, resulting in some waking up early in the morning.
What Are The Characteristics Of Wild Hamsters?
Since hamsters belong in the rodent category, they have small bodies, tiny ears, but what sets them apart is their short tails. They are furry animals and comes in a variety of colors, including black, brown, grey, yellow, and some hamsters come with a mix of these colors.
By nature, hamsters can be very gentle. However, they won’t hesitate to attack you with a bite if you startle them or wake them up unexpectedly. An interesting fact about hamsters is that, despite being wild animals, they have very poor eyesight. Not only that, but they are also nearsighted and colorblind.
These make it very hard for them to see, and as a result, they rely on their sense of smell. Another interesting fact is that the scent glands that the hamsters rely on are on their back.
How Does Wild Hamsters Behave?
As mentioned before, hamsters are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they will be asleep during the day and up all night. In the wild, hamsters dig deep burrows as a place for accommodation. There are two reasons behind this, one being that it is cooler underground rather than the surface. The second being, the hamsters use this burrow as their place to stash foods.
When the weather is cold enough, wild hamsters go into their burrows to hibernate. During their hibernation, they will wake up to consume food periodically. If the hamster feels that it doesn’t have enough food in storage, it will not hibernate until it thinks that the foods stored will last through the hibernation period.
When it comes to being social, not all hamsters respond the same way. For example, you should never have two Syrian hamsters in the same cage. Syrian hamsters love to be by themselves and are incredibly territorial. So, if it finds another hamster around, it may harm or even kill that second hamster. On the other hand, Russian dwarf hamsters are very social and like to be with a friend.
The origin of the name comes from the German word “Hamstern.” Hamstern in German means hoard. This is a very accurate name for these little furries because, as mentioned before, hamsters store foods both in their burrows and in their cheek pouches. This enables them to carry a lot of food to their accommodation at once. Also, this way, hamsters can store food in their mouth for later. You will find your pet hamster storing food under the cage’s bedding.
When it comes to lifespan, hamsters usually live as long as two years in the wild. However, in captivity, a hamster can live up to three years.
How Did Wild Hamsters Get Domesticated?
So, you have learned about how our furry friends live in the wild. But how did they reach our homes and win our hearts?
Well, the first attempt at domestication didn’t go as planned, and it is quite a sad story. Back in 1930, a zoologist named Israel Aharoni was visiting Syria when he found a Syrian hamster and her twelve children. Since it was a long time ago, the zoologist didn’t know that you aren’t supposed to touch the babies when they are under the mother’s care. Sadly, the zoologist did so, and the mother hamster was triggered, which lead to it killing one of her children. Two of the hamster babies even ran off into the wilderness.
After that, the remaining babies were brought to a Hebrew Hospital over there, where five more babies fled. However, the remaining number of hamster babies were all that the zoologists needed to start successful breeding.
How Wild Hamsters Became Our Pets
After the zoologist returned, the breeding of hamsters from the original specimen was successful, and then those hamsters were sent all around the world. That’s when people saw these little creatures and started to realize how easy it was to keep one as a pet.
Later in the 1930s and 1940s, Hamsters became very popular as a pet, and their popularity has been growing ever since then. Moreover, now you can pet not just Syrian hamsters, but also Russian dwarf hamsters.
This illustration shows the number of hamsters adopted as a pet in the UK from 2010 to 2018. Looking at the graph, we see that from 2010 to 2011, the number was just 0.4 million. However, the scenario completely changed in the following year. In 2011, 0.7 million hamsters were kept as a pet. However, the number decreased to 0.6 million in 2012 and 2013.
The number of hamsters kept as a pet saw a decrease in 2013 too, with the number being just 0.4 million, back to the first number. In 2014 and 2015, there was no change in the number of hamsters kept as a pet. However, in 2016 and 2017, the numbers decreased again to 0.3 million.
From looking at the UK data, we can’t simply say that the popularity of our furry friends as pets has decreased all over the world. The main contributor behind this decrease is the increasing popularity of dogs as a pet.
Where Can You Find Wild Hamsters?
It may surprise many people to know that these rodents are desert animals and are known to live in the desert or in rocky areas. You will be able to witness different types of hamsters if you ever wind up in any of these regions:
The hamsters found in Syria are often termed as “Teddy bear” hamsters. If you have ever had a pet hamster, chances are that you had a hamster that comes all the way from Syria. These Syrian hamsters have the most significant number of members living in the wild.
The hamsters of Syria protect themselves from sweltering temperatures by digging deep into burrows, sometimes going as deep as ten meters. Each hamster has its own burrows, and when other hamsters invade their burrows, they’re not too happy about that. Sadly, Syrian hamsters are considered most vulnerable because of their dropping numbers out in the wild.
There are wild hamsters in Mongolia too, and they can be found in the semi-dessert areas over there. You will find the hamsters very active in the evenings. After sunset, these hamsters, known as the Campbell hamsters, come out of their burrows in search of food. These wild hamsters take over the homes of other rodents rather than building their own.
Other cousins of the hamsters come from the east side of the world, and they are known as Chinese hamsters. These hamsters can be found in rocky landscapes where the temperature is consistently warm. Observing these Chinese hamsters, you will see that they have short tails. This feature gives them the grip they need when it comes to climbing.
Unlike other hamsters, these ones don’t live deep in burrows. Instead, these adorable furballs live in holes that they can find just under the ground. Moreover, these hamsters can run very fast.
Now you know where you might be able to find a hamster on your wilderness trips, but how will you hunt one? Find out below.
What Gear Do You Need For Hunting Hamsters?
Hunting a hamster can be a difficult task; not only do they live in the desert but they are also nocturnal animals. That means, you will be hunting for hamsters after the sun goes down or much later into the night. In order to hunt a hamster, you will need some tools that can aid your hunting process and your vision too.
Hamsters are extremely small animals, so you will need a good flashlight to track these animals.
While hunting in the dark setting, accidents are bound to happen. Whether it is cactus cuts or blisters from your boots, having a first-aid kit with you may prove to be handy in a number of situations.
Light and Fire kits
Since you’ll be hunting at night, you will obviously need light sources other than flashlights to aid your vision. Besides that, you will also want to have a light and fire kit with you to start a fire and to call for help.
In deserts and rocky areas, it’s bound to get cold at night, so it’s wise to carry a survival blanket with you. They are lightweight, take very little space in your bag pack, and will definitely come in handy.
A sharp knife is one of the most essential equipment to carry when you’re hunting. A sharp knife will help you to dress your hunt and save you a lot of time.
For a small game hunter, having a gun in your arsenal makes the hunting process quite efficient and simple. It can help you to take down wild hamsters easily from a great amount of distance. Even if your budget for hunting gear is low, you can undoubtedly afford a pellet gun, a crossbow or a slingshot, which can act as effective weapons against small animals.
Night Vision Equipment
Since you will be hunting at night, having night vision gear is essential. Gear like night vision scopes and other equipment like thermal imaging scope can come in handy. Besides this, having a binocular with night vision will make scoping your hunt easier.
Once you’ve got the equipment, you need to know about two additional things before you go hunting: gun safety, and knife safety.
Before, you begin your journey as a hunter, the first element that you must know is gun safety. Gun safety is a big issue when it comes to hunting, and the various hunter’s and youth hunter’s associations have deemed it necessary to learn about gun safety. So, it’s important to know every rule of gun safety along with other skills and elements of hunting.
Just like gun safety, knife safety is also important. No matter what you’re using the knife for, accidental cuts can happen if the knife isn’t handled properly. While using a knife, make sure it’s a sharp one, so you can get the job done effortlessly. Also, always cut things away from your body.
Besides that, while hunting, keep your knife in a cover, and when you’re using the knife, never cut in an awkward position or you might injure yourself badly.
Choke Size and Shot Size
When you are hunting for a hamster, using the shot number 5 or 6 is the most common case, and when it comes to choke size, using a modified choke or a full barrel choke is the best way to go. However, what you will use will depend on how far your hunt is from you.
How to Hunt Small Rodents like Wild Hamsters
You are likely to come across a wild hamster if you’re in a desert landscape or a rocky area. However, since hamsters are nocturnal creatures, you will have a higher chance of spotting them at night.
Hamsters are small animals and can run quickly. Also, they rely mostly on their scent gland to be aware of their surroundings. Therefore, taking the shot from far away will help. So, staying in place, spotting them, and then hunting them is the best way to go about it.
There’s no doubt that hamsters make adorable pets, but if you’re stranded among sand dunes or rocky outcrops in Syria, China or Mongolia, they can make good dinner as well. So, get the right tools, set out at the right time and make the right moves, and you will be able to bag a nice old hamster for your wilderness meal.
Still have questions about how to get started with wild hamster hunting? Comment down below for answers.