As I was going for my daily walk at 5 o’clock this morning, I saw a small animal in the road. It was hard to tell what it was in the half-light of dawn and at first I thought it was a big rat. As I got closer I noticed that it had no tail, so rat was out of the question. What then? Curious, I approached and the creature ‘froze’ rather than ran. I made my way towards it and then I saw – it was a hedgehog!
I’ve written about hedgehogs before. Last November I warned of the dangers they face on Bonfire Night. But that article was all about keeping them safe, and didn’t go into much detail about them. So, let’s rectify that with a list of fun hedgehog facts:
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means they only come out at night. They spend the daytime hours sleeping in the shelter of woodland undergrowth or beneath bushes
- They are predators and hunt at night for worms, slugs, snails and insects. They’ll also eat small frogs and mice if they get the chance! In one night they may cover 3 km or 2 miles
- During the colder months hedgehogs hibernate in compost heaps and woodpiles. To preserve energy, their body temperature drops and their breathing and heart rates slow right down
- When hedgehogs wake from hibernation in the spring they need to restock their energy reserves straight away. Their body weight could have fallen by up to 50% so they need to find lots of food very quickly
- They find their prey by using their sensitive noses. They have a powerful sense of smell and make a ‘snuffling’ noise as they sniff. It was probably this noise that gave them the name ‘hog’
- As well as being hunters, hedgehogs are also hunted. Cats, owls, foxes and ferrets will all kill hedgehogs
- To protect themselves, hedgehogs are covered in up to 5,000 sharp spines. They can curl themselves up into a ball which is impenetrable to all but the strongest, cleverest or most tenacious predators
- Sadly, the spines are no defence against traffic. Every year around a quarter of a million of them are killed on our roads. There are now less than a million hedgehogs in the UK – in the 1950s there were 36 million of them. The coming of the family car has had a huge negative impact on their numbers
I hope you enjoyed finding out about hedgehogs. If you’d like to learn more then why not speak to Alan, the ordinary hedgehog living an ordinary hedgehog life?