They may be just 10 inches long, but Alsace’s wild hamsters are Great all the same—and France isn’t doing enough to keep them around, the EU’s top court ruled yesterday. If the country doesn't make a better life for the creatures, it faces $24.6 million in fines. The Great Hamster of Alsace is Western Europe’s only wild hamster, and there are only 800 alive in France today, notes the New York Times.
The brown, white, and black creatures have been threatened by the development of highways and buildings, which has forced them to travel further to find food after a 6-month hibernation period. Though they’ve been protected by law since 1993, “protection measures for the Great Hamster put in place by France were insufficient,” the court said. Alsace—the only place in Western Europe where the hamsters live, though they're common in Eastern Europe and Central Asia—“must stop some urbanization projects and restore” some of the foods that the hamsters enjoy, says a wildlife advocate. (Read more France stories.)