Happy National Hedgehog Day

Today, February 2, 2021, is National Hedgehog Day!

We care for 3 female Hedgehogs named Rachel, Patty, and Violet.

A hedgehog is a small spiny mammal found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and was also introduced to New Zealand. There are believed to be 17 different species of hedgehog, none of which are native to Australia or the Americas. The easiest way to recognize a hedgehog is by its spines, which are hollow hairs reinforced by keratin, which is also found in human nails and hair. Unlike porcupines, the spines are not barbed and do not detach from the body. The leading way a hedgehog defends itself is to roll into a tight ball and point its spines outward, covering its face and belly which are not protected.  While most species of hedgehog defend themselves this way, some species will simply flee or attack their predator with their spines. However, hedgehogs will regularly fall prey to large birds, such as owls, ferrets, foxes, wolves, and mongoose.

Hedgehogs are omnivores and will feed on insects, snails, frogs/toads, snakes, bird eggs, carcasses, mushrooms, roots, berries, melons, and watermelon. During the cold winter months, some species of hedgehog will hibernate due to a lack of available food. During hibernation, the body temperature can decrease down to about 36F and will come all the way back up to a low 90F temperature.

Generally, the gestation period for hedgehogs is 35-58 days and litters can range from 3-6 individuals. The animals will live between 2-7 years in the wild, with some instances of 16 years being recorded. Under captive care, most hedgehogs will live 8-10 years as a result of controlled diets, veterinary care, and lack of predators.

Because of their small size, hedgehogs are often kept as pets. However, in many states, it is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet. In many areas, especially where hedgehogs are not native, there are concerns about them as invasive species. For example, in New Zealand and the islands of Scotland, the hedgehog has become a pest and has caused severe damage to native species, specifically shorebirds. Because the hedgehog does not have natural predators in these areas, attempts to cull hedgehogs have been proposed. However, these efforts have been met with outrage and new laws have been into place the hedgehogs must be trapped and released off-island.

Hedgehogs are listed as “Least Concern” by IUCN.

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