Gimme shelter: Hamsters and hawks in need of a good home

Summary

The Flemish government has earmarked €45,000 in subsidies for farmers who provide two of the region’s most endangered animals with adequate accommodation

A place for us

Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege has approved €45,000 in subsidies for farmers who provide accommodation for two of the region’s most endangered animals: the hamster and a type of hawk known as Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus).

Many people don’t realise that hamsters are a wild animal. Like the harrier, they prefer to live on the edges of grain fields; but fields don’t usually have unplanted edges any more, which has led to near extinction of the rodent.  There are only about 30 of the creatures remaining in the wild in Flanders, all of them in Limburg.

Under the new scheme, farmers can receive a subsidy if they plant suitable ground-cover on the edges of their fields, where hamsters can nest, feed an take cover from predators. Acceptable plants are alfalfa or hamster-friendly grass and herbs, sown after an early harvest.

The contract lasts for five years, with an annual payment of €1,871 per hectare for the planting of alfalfa, or €130 per hectare for post-harvest planting (which is only a temporary measure).

The measure should also help the harrier, which is found on the plateau between Hoegaarden in Flemish Brabant and Riemst in Limburg and also likes to nest in lowlands.

“I’m happy to be able to give the farmers taking part a hand with these resources,” Schauvliege said. “Farmers are still a major link in providing shelter for these vulnerable species.”

Photo: Peter Maas/Wikimedia