Hedgehogs are seriously cute, although I never wanted to touch them as I always thought they were flea-ridden (which is not true!). This week's nature educational slot is all about the hedgehog as I share with you some facts that I have learned this week.
1. They are nocturnal
I'm sure most people know this already, but it is unusual to see a hedgehog during the day as they are nocturnal. If your security light goes on and off in your back garden then it is likely to be a hedgehog on an evening stroll.
2. They are called hedgehogs for a reason
The ‘Hedge’ part of their name comes from where they build their nests hedges, bushes and shrubs. The ‘hog’ part comes from the small snorting/ grunting sound they make which is similar to a pig/warthog.
3. Hedgehogs hibernate
Hedgehogs have the ability to hibernate (although not all do), which makes them one of only three mammals that hibernate in the UK. Hedgehogs usually hibernate from October/November through to March/April. … During mild winters hedgehogs can remain active well into November and December. While in hibernation the hedgehog's fuel supply comes from the fat stores it has built up over the summer.
4. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant
Hedgehogs are actually lactose intolerant, so milk should never be left out for them, water is perfectly fine. You must never give a hedgehog cows' milk or milk products. It can cause severe digestive upset and kill them. I never knew this!
5. They weren’t always called hedgehogs
The hedgehog was not always called a hedgehog. Before this, they were called Urchins which led to the naming of Sea Urchins.
6. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight.
Hedgehogs hunt primarily using their hearing and smell because their eyesight is not very good, although they can see quite well in the dark.
7. There isn’t just one species of hedgehog
There are 15 different species of hedgehog in the world. Each species is similar but has small charismatic and habitual differences. The UK only has one native species, the European Hedgehog.
8. Hedgehogs have over 5000 spikes
Hedgehogs have around 5000 to 7000 spines on their back. These can be raised and lowered to respond to threatening situations. Each quill/ spine lasts about a year before dropping out and being replaced.
9. Hedgehogs have an automatic built-in protection device!
The hedgehog has a vulnerable stomach, which is why it curls up into a spiky ball when predators such as badgers are around.
11. They self-anoint when stimulated
If a hedgehog smells or tastes something really strong, it will attempt to cover itself in foamy saliva, much like a cat cleaning itself. This is called self-anointing.
12. They are solitary creatures
Hedgehogs venture out on their own after only four to seven weeks of nurturing from their mother. They usually then spend their entire lives alone with the exception of pairing up to mate with another hedgehog.
13. A group is called an array
It is extremely rare that you will see multiple hedgehogs together in one place other than when mating, but if you do it is called an array.
14. Hedgehogs are a gardeners’ friend
Hedgehogs have earned this reputation because of their eating habits. Not only do they enjoy berries and fruit but the staple of their diet is made up of pests that are common in our back gardens such as beetles and caterpillars. This helps preserve the fruit and vegetables you may have growing in your gardens.
Shout out to this article for assisting with these facts.