Nov 262012
 
(Erinaceus europaeus) Hedgehogs have a coat of stiff, sharp spines. If attacked they will curl into a prickly and unappetizing ball that deters most predators. They usually sleep in this position during the day and awaken to search for food at night.  What does the Hedgehog eat? A Hedgehog is basically an insectivore and roots through hedges and undergrowth in search of small creatures. They feed on baby birds, mice, small mammals, snails, millipedes, snakes, earwigs, berries and even bees.   How long do they live? The average lifespan of a hedgehog is 3.5 years.   How many hedgehogs can be born at a time? Baby hedgehogs have a high mortality rate. Smaller species have 3-4 offspring and larger species have 5-6. It is a relief to the sows that the hoglets are born with very soft quills! They harden up after about a week.   Where are they found? Hedgehogs are found in Europe, Northern Africa and Eastern Asia. They have been introduced into places such as the United States (as pets) and New Zealand, but these are not natural habitats.  

Interesting facts:

  • While on the hunt, they rely upon their senses of hearing and smell because their eyesight is weak.
  • Hedgehogs have a coat of stiff, sharp spines. If attacked they will curl into a prickly and unappetizing ball that deters most predators. They usually sleep in this position during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
  • The hedgehog has a natural resistance to toxins and a high level of immunity to venom which allows the hedgehog to include bees, wasps and poisonous snakes in their diet.
  • Not many creatures prey on hedgehogs; ferrets and owls being among the few that do.
  • Hedgehogs swim, climb, and can run at speeds of 4.5 miles per hour.
  • As a hedgehog picks its way through the hedges it emits pig like grunts—thus, the hedgehog.
 

Hedgehogs at the Zoo

Ruby and Caraway - Two hedgehogs were donated to us in 2011, from someone whose daughter received them as a birthday present. The mother knew it was illegal to own them in California so she brought them to the zoo. Both of these hedgehogs were probably about 10 weeks old when they came to us.  There is a boy (Caraway) and a girl (Ruby), who had been living together in an aquarium and were separated as soon as they arrived at the zoo.  Suprise!  Hedgehogs can have babies at 8 to 10 weeks of age, so our little female gave birth to two babies after a couple of weeks.   Harlequin and Jester - Both the babies were males and doing very well and are just as big as mom now! We use the whole family on our educational programs to help educate people about why hedgehogs are not good pets and the fact that they are illegal to own in California.   Note: The Big Bear Alpine Zoo has a permit to have hedgehogs because we rescue these illegal pets that might otherwise have to be euthanized.