Wild small mammals and bats at the zoo

The term “small mammals” typically refers to the relatively small members from the orders encompassing the rodents and shrew-like representatives.

Clever city dwellers. Their enormous adaptability enables small mammals to inhabit a wide range of habitats around the globe. How clever these animals are is especially evident in urban areas: their curiosity and learning abilities enable them to master the many daily challenges of living in human settlements. 

The most popular sites at the zoo. Austria is home to 39 small mammal species, of which 6 live in the zoo. Leafy (deciduous) forests provide the best habitat and refuge areas, especially for fat doormice, squirrels and yellow-necked mice. The highly adaptable wood mouse can also be spotted along our visitor pathways and animal enclosures – for example in the cheetah enclosure. A nice little attraction are the rare bicolored shrews that have moved into the Rainforest House.

Native small mammals at the zoo

  • fat doormouse (Glis glis)
  • red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
  • wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
  • yellow-necked mouse (A. flavicollis)
  • Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus)
  • Bicolored white-toothed shrew (Crocidura leucodon)

Natural “insect protection”. Bats also find food and shelter at the zoo. They are the only native mammals capable of active flight. They are completely harmless for humans and consume lots of insects. Even the smallest native bats – the midge bat and common pipistrelle, which weigh less than 10 grams – devour about 250 grams of mosquitos, moths and other insects over the course of a summer.

All 28 bat species reported in Austria are strictly protected. A survey conducted by the Vienna Municipal Department 22 – Environmental Protection in Vienna (MA22) revealed that 20 of these species are found in Vienna, 9 of which are also documented at the zoo.

Native bats at the zoo

  • Daubenton’s bat
  • Bechstein’s bat
  • Brandt’s bat
  • noctule bat
  • midge bat
  • common pipistrelle
  • Nathusius‘ pipistrelle
  • Savi’s pipistrelle
  • barbastelle

Dr. Christine Blatt and Dr. Stefan Resch, wildlife biologists: “Many small waterbodies are located between the animal enclosures and visitor pathways. They make attractive habitats for small mammals – especially the ponds next to the Rainforest House. The tall forbs here, comprising raspberry bushes, shrubs and ivy vines, provide food resources and shelter.”

Tips to help protect small mammals

  • Create diversity.
    Near-natural gardens with a wide range of plants provide insects with food and shelter, which means a rich diet for bats and various small mammals. Squirrels, for example, feel right at home in settings with hazelnut bushes, walnut trees, beech and oak.
  • Provide water.
    The peak summer months often mean water scarcity for small mammals, bats and many other animals (hedgehogs, birds, insects, etc.). Important: don’t forget to regularly exchange water provided in small bowls.
  • Reduce the known threats.
    Cellar wells, descending stairways or pools tend to be inescapable traps for small mammals. The animals typically cannot extricate themselves without outside help and perish. Lids on shafts, bricks placed to help reduce step heights, as well as perforated plates or roughened boards as escape ladders at swimming pool edges can decide between life and death.
  • Create places to hide.
    Bats are having increasing difficulty finding suitable winter quarters. Valuable old-growth tree stands are often being cut down, cracks and holes in buildings are plastered shut, and small caves are sealed. When conducting renovation work, keep an eye out for bat homes and make sure they remain intact. Installing bat boxes is also a good option.
  • Be sensitive.
    If you find a hibernating bat, please don’t disturb it! Waking up costs a lot of energy, and frequent disturbances can lead to starvation.
  • Be patient.
    In summer, young bats can sometimes go astray and end up in homes and apartments. There is no need to capture them or to shoo them towards a window or door with a broom. Simply leave a window open in the evening – bats are perfectly capable of finding the exit of such “man-made” caves on their own.