Hedgehogs got their name from their unique foraging habits. These animals root through under growths and hedges to reach their favorite food, usually small creatures like worms, snails, insects, mice, snakes and frogs. As they move through the hedges, they emit pig-like sounds hence the name hedgehog.
2.Around for Millions of Years
Hedgehogs are mammals that have been in existence for millions of years. The animals are dominant in most Southern Europe and Africa regions. Primarily, they are insectivorous and come in black, brown, gray, cream, and albino.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. They emerge at night and tend to spend the day sleeping in nests found in thick shrubs or under bushes. Some people them find hedgehogs to be important pets as they prey on most of the common garden pests. During hunting hedgehogs depend on their smell and hearing senses because they have weak eyesight.
Hedgehogs have spiny and thick coats that offer them formidable defense against their predators like foxes. When intimidated or alarmed, they curl up to form a spiny ball in a bid to protect their vulnerable stomach. Each hedgehog has an estimated 5000 spines with each lasting for about one year. It then falls off and a new spine grows. Their spines are springy and hollow. They have flexible necks and are erected by muscles.
There are 15 hedgehog species in Asia, Europe and Africa. Some species have been introduced to non-conventional ranges like New Zealand. All species have eyesight’s that are adapted for night vision and have a protruding snout that extends beyond the mouth front that helps forage for food.
A single hedgehog can have up to 500 fleas. The fleas called Archaepsylla erinacei is specifically found on hedgehogs and only bites humans of rare occasions. Hedgehogs also have a habit of self-anointing themselves when stimulated by strong tastes or smell. This makes them to cover the prickles with saliva that is foamy. It is not clear why they do this.
Hedgehogs’ diet includes different pests which makes it a gardener’s friend. In gardens within cities and towns, hedgehogs tend to feed on food that is put out for cats and dogs. They provide a great way of encouraging these tiny animals to get into gardens.
Hedgehogs are mostly solitary animals that pair up during mating time only. During mating, they produce some loud snuffling sounds and males circle females for hours to convince them to mate. After mating, they separate and males play no part in raising the family. Females give birth to 10 or 11 litters who stay with the mother for 4 to 7 weeks before moving out on their own. Hedgehogs give birth after 32 days. Their litters are blind at birth and have soft spines. Litters born in September are less likely to survive the first winter. Young ones suckle until they are ready to hunt on their own. Hedgehog mothers take young ones for initial foraging after 10 days.
Females must protect their young ones against male hedgehogs who at times prey on the young hedgehogs. In some instances, female hedgehogs feed on their litters in case the nest gets disturbed but often they move them to new nests.
10.Surviving cold weather
Hedgehogs that live in cold areas such as the UK tend to hibernate during winters. They feed heavily in autumn and in October; they build nests using grass and leaves where they hibernate. In warm climates like deserts, hedgehogs spend most of their time sleeping during drought and heat in a process known as aestivation. In temperate places, they stay active all through.