Animal of the Month
August 2019
Name: Hedgehogs

Class: Mammalia
Order: Eulipotyphla
Family: Erinaceidae
Subfamily: Erinaceinae
Number of Genera: 5
Number of Species: 17

Size: About 6-14 inches long..
Weight: 1-4 pounds.

Characteristics:Round body with small limbs, rounded ears, pointed snout and beady eyes. Face and underbelly covered in fir, upper body covered in pointy spines.
Whitish-tan to brown, sometimes black.
Behavior: Solitary, most species are nocturnal. Many species hibernate during the winter.
Preferred Habitat: Grasslands and woodlands, and occasionally rocky areas.
Range: Found across Europe and the British Isles, Asia and Africa. More recently introduced to portions of New Zealand and the Scottish Islands.
Diet: Snails, insects, frogs and toads, mushrooms, grass roots, melons, berries, eggs and carrion.

Lifespan: In the wild typically 2-3 years with a max of 6-7 years, in captivity up to 8 years.

Status: 16 species classed as Least Concern. One species appears to be Not Evaluated.

They look like porcupines, but they're smaller, more nocturnal, and positively adorable! Called "hogs" for the way they root for food like pigs, hedgehogs are a group of mammals that are distant cousins of shrews. They can be found across Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as New Zealand. Hedgehogs prefer to live in forested or grassy environments. Some species are adapted to live in dryer, more desert-like places. Most hedgehogs are nocturnal and will spend their nights looking for food. They are not picky and will gladly eat insects, snails, carrion, melons, berries, eggs, and grass roots. Hedgehogs have poor hearing and eyesight; they depend on their sense of smell to find food.

Hedgehogs are known for their prickly quills on their backs. Like porcupines, hedgehogs curl up into a spiny ball to protect themselves from predators. Unlike porcupines, the quills of a hedgehog do not easily come out. Young hedgehogs will shed quills and grow new ones, kind of like a human child losing baby teeth! Some species of hedgehog will even rush at their enemies to poke them with their spines! Predators that eat hedgehogs include badgers and owls.

All wild hedgehogs are capable of hibernating, though not all species do this regularly. Hedgehogs usually live alone except once a year when they mate. Females carry their young for about 35-58 days and they give birth to 1-11 babies depending on the species. At birth, the baby hedgehogs are blind. The baby's quills are covered in a thin membrane that dries and comes off over the first few hours of life. A hedgehog will live for an average of 2-3 years in the wild, though they can live for about 6-7 years. In captivity they can live for as long as 8 years!

Currently all hedgehog species are classed as Least Concern, with the exception of the Gaoligong forest hedgehog of China, which is not evaluated. The European hedgehog is protected in all nations that are part of the European Union, as well as member-states of the European Council and those who have signed the Berne Convention, among others. As such, it is illegal to capture or keep a European hedgehog in these countries. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are declining in some place, like the UK. One of the greatest threats to hedgehogs is the car. Every year 50,000-100,000 hedgehogs are killed in car incidents. They also face dangers from habitat destruction, rat poisons and manmade barriers. Their search for food or for a place to stay may draw them to compost bins, lawns or woodpiles. If you live in Europe, Asia or Africa, be sure gently check these places so you don't hurt an unsuspecting hedgehog!

Hedgehogs are invasive species New Zealand and certain Scottish islands. Unfortunately they have become pests in these places and even threaten to damage the local ecosystem. They prey on native animals that usually don't have predators and can carry diseases that threaten other creatures. This is a good example of how easily an ecosystem can be affected by just one non-native species!

Hedgehogs are commonly kept as pets. They were domesticated as early as the days of the ancient Romans, where they were used for food and to clean shawls! They were also sacred to the ancient Persians because they ate insects, which were considered to be creatures of evil. Today, many places allow hedge-hogs to be kept as pets. As mentioned above, many European countries forbid the European hedgehog from being kept as a pet. Pet hedgehogs in general are also banned in some countries like Israel, and are banned or restricted in certain US states including Georgia, Hawaii and California. If you want to keep a hedgehog as a pet, make sure it comes from an ethical breeder or rescue center (NOT from the wild) and that it's a species you can legally own!

To learn more about hedgehogs, look here:

Hedgehog Street-A campaign based in the UK aiming help protect hedgehogs in urban areas!

Hedgehog Welfare Society-Dedicated to rescuing and protecting pet hedgehogs!

Mental Floss, "16 Fun Facts About Hedgehogs"-Fun and strange facts about these prickly critters!


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