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Holly - Our Mascot

Over The Garden Gate

Hedgehogs

(Erinaceus Europaeus)

By User IconImpy  and User IconGill NZ
Holly Hedgehog is our Site Mascot
Happy rolling hedgehog

Picture Courtesy of Hogarth's Hedgehog Rescue (aka Spikeys)

Hedgehogs are a common, mainly nocturnal mammal of Great Britain and Europe, mostly seen at dusk and dawn, sadly many people only see the hedgehogs which have been killed on our roads.

Hedgehogs are brown/grey in colour with tough 20mm (") yellow tipped spines on their back and sides, while the head and underside has coarse hair. Their eyes and ears are small, and their legs and tail short in proportion to body size. Hedgehogs have a very keen sense of smell and good hearing but poor eyesight.

Hedgehog spines lie flat until they are frightened or disturbed when they become erect as they roll up into a protective ball.
Hedgehog rolled-up to protect itself
In Great Britain hedgehogs are considered the "Gardener's Friend" as their diet consists mainly of slugs, snails, insects, insect larvae, beetles, earthworms and fallen fruit. They will also attack mice, rats, lizards, frogs and snakes. They are immune to Adder venom and will provoke it by biting it, rolling up into a ball while the Adder attacks repeatedly until it's venom is exhausted, the hedgehog then kills the Adder.

Their natural enemies are badgers and foxes; un-natural enemy is man with his car, slug pellets, pesticides and dumped rubbish. Slug pellets, pesticides and other poisons are passed on to hedgehogs through the food chain - if it survives all these these perils a Hedgehog can live up to 6 years.

Habitat

Hedgehogs can be found in hedgerows, fields, open woods and gardens. They can be encouraged to visit gardens by regularly placing food out for them, a saucer of cat or dog food is appreciated, there is also canned and dried hedgehog foods available now.
Make sure they always have access to water; contrary to popular belief milk is not good for hedgehogs causing them stomach problems, which can lead to death.
Hedgehogs often find invertebrates in the leaf litterGiven the right conditions some hedgehogs might even take up residency in your garden. A pile of logs or leaves left undisturbed in a quiet corner, or a compost heap are a favourite place especially for hibernation as are bonfire piles - so take care when turning a compost pile and check before lighting a bonfire for sleeping/hibernating hedgehogs.
A man made hedgehog house is often used - a box approx 12" long x 8" high for the sides and top, 8" long x 8" high for the back and front, the front having a 4" dia. hole with a pipe (could be drainage pipe off cut) approx 12" long inserted for the entrance tunnel. Waterproof the box by covering with thick polythene or something similar and place under a shrub or in a suitable quiet place.
Nests consist of leaves and grass; hibernation nests are larger than their summer nests, using leaves and moss to keep the rain out and maintain an even temperature. If you have a man made hedgehog house you could put dried leaves and grass close by to encourage them to occupy it. Natural nests may be built in a disused rabbit hole, under a hedge, under a tree root or even under your garden shed.


Reproduction

This young Hedgehog is nearly ready to find its own foodMating takes place between March and July, preceded by a courtship of noisy grunting and jerky movements of the male "dancing" around and butting the female. The male plays no further part in the female hedgehogs life. Three to seven young are born in one or two litters from May to September. Gestation period is about 4 weeks. Newborn hedgehogs called hoglets are blind, pale in colour with soft hair, which turns to spines after about 18 days. The mother suckles the hoglets for a month after which they forage for food.

Hibernation

Hibernation is usually between October and early April, when the body temperature drops to just over 4 degrees C (40 degrees F) instead of the usual 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). Even in extreme cold weather they will on occasions leave the nest to forage for food. For young hedgehogs entering hibernation their weight should be at least 500 grams, under that weight they may need help.

Health

Fleas, mites, ticks and parasites live on hedgehogs and serious infestations of these can affect their health. Over heating can affect them too when heat is excessive. Hedgehogs lose heat by laying flat somewhere cool, as they are only able to sweat from the underside of their bodies.
Hedgehogs like to sleep in undergrowth and long vegetation thus making garden strimmers a danger to them as the flaying cord cutting back the vegetation can cut them. So check the undergrowth and vegetation before starting to strim your garden vegetation back.
Young hedgehogs found during the daytime should be kept an eye on and if still there alone at dusk or in a distressed condition should be taken somewhere warm, dry and safe and fed on meaty cat or dog food/hedgehog food, given water and kept safe until they are able to fend for themselves, finally releasing them back into the wild as close to where they were found as possible (providing it is a safe area).

Hedgehogs seen in daytime are usually sick or very hungry. If a hedgehog is obviously sick or you feel you need more advice contact one of the organisations listed below they will be able to give you the advice you need.



There are lot's of other Hedgehog species - can you gues where I'm from?

Hedgehog trivia

  • Hedgehogs have approx 6000 spines on their backs.
  • Adult weight is around 1-2 KG - heaviest in autumn.
  • Adult males grow to approx 230mm (9") long.
  • Life expectancy is approx 2-3 years.
  • Approx half of the hedgehog population die before they are a year old.
  • Hedgehogs can swim, climb walls and run fast - speeds of up to 2 metres a second (4.5 mph)!
  • The European hedgehog was introduced in New Zealand in 1885, where it now lives in the wild.
  • Ancient Egyptians thought hedgehog fat would cure baldness Frown
  • Hedgehogs are distant relatives of moles and shrews.
  • They belong to the Erinacerdae family, a family containing hairy hedgehogs as well as spiny ones.
  • The European hedgehog is one of 14 species of spiny hedgehog throughout the world.
  • Hedgehogs in the U.S.A. are only kept in captivity, being imported; the species there is Atelerix Albiventris.
  • Bananas are a favoured food, reputedly good for their digestive systems.
  • Click here to hear a hedgehog.
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