Got a sharp spine? Here's what you need to know about hedgehogs!
Did you know...
- hedgehogs are mammals and one of the oldest surviving mammals!
- that their infamous 'spikes' are actually called spines? They're actually modified hair!
Hedgehogs are classified as 'least concern' by the IUCN (that's relatively good news, but we've still got to protect and rescue them!)
- in the wild, hedgehogs live to around 7 years, though the oldest known hedgehog reached 16!
- hedgehogs are partially immune to snake venom...
- the African Pygmy hedgehog is the most popular pet hedgehog;
- since hedgehogs take care of garden and agricultural pests (by eating them), the Persians used to consider them sacred
Let's Talk More About Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs that have reached adulthood are unlikely to grow beyond 30cm - that's the size of a standard ruler! It's still quite large... I don't know about you, but I've only ever seen the little hedgehogs that fit into your hand!
Did you know that African Pygmys are the smallest hedgehogs in the world?
Fun fact: our Save the Hedgehog socks feature the African Pygmy hedgehog!
They average up to 18cm. You may be more familiar with this breed of hedgehogs from the media, then. In any case, hedgehogs, with their tail, can measure up to about 36cm long, but the tail length varies between 1-6cm.
Baby hedgehogs (aka hoglets), who can have around six siblings in one litter, are born with soft and short spines.
Can you guess how many spines are on an adult hedgehog? It's around 5,000 - 7,000! Although, for reference, the average human head has around 100,000 hair strands at any one time (of course, this goes without saying that there are exceptions).
You're probably aware of the fact that the spines act as a defence and protection mechanism, so after three weeks, a hoglet's spines have grown stiffer, longer and sharper, making them functional. Until that time, they stay in their nests whilst their mother finds and brings their food. After that, though, they can follow her when she goes food hunting!
Active Hours and Diets
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they go searching for food at night (another reason why their spines are so helpful). Their favourite foods are small mice, lizards, small insects, snails, frogs and eggs. Did you know that hedgehogs can even stomach snakes?!
Can you guess which insects hedgehogs like most? Beetles, followed by caterpillars and earthworms...
Sometimes hedgehogs are active during the day- this is especially true if it's just poured down, as it does in England.
Did you know that hedgehogs make for acknowledged swimmers and climbers? Though, they do prefer the ground.
What Hurts Hedgehogs?
So we know they're a little far from being endangered, but what risks their populations to be classified as 'least concern', anyway?
Slug Pellets are poisonous, so they should be avoided at all costs, due to the risk of being eaten by small mammals and birds. The government acknowledge their great damage and so, from April 2022, metaldehyde slug pellet usage is illegal. Currently, they're already illegal for sale. Other pesticides should also only be used very, very sparingly for similar reasons.
Ponds and swimming pools are like death traps for small mammals, especially in poor visibility. They can drown if the pool or pond's design is ill-equipped for saving small creatures: such as having slops or steps around the perimeter to support escape after accidentally falling in. Alternatively, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society advises that chicken wires, when hung over the pond or pool perimeter, acts as a scrambling net for the animals. Hedgehogs can use it to climb out of the water.
Nets, including pea and tennis netting, risk hedgehog starvation if they're caught within. To prevent this, they must be rolled up and kept well above the ground (around 22cm) when not in use.
Whilst hedgehogs will attempt to eat anything they come across, they may find themselves stuck in metal tins, yoghurt pots and plastic cups. These can all quickly harm them from suffocation and starvation, so be sure to clean up your garden of such litter. However, you're free to keep leaves and twigs around for hedgehogs to happily make their nests!
Similar to litter, bin bags need to be kept out of reach to prevent a hedgehog from clawing at it and tearing the plastic. This protects them from being trapped within a pile of rubbish and also being accidentally disposed of when the rubbish is collected for waste pickups every week.
Whilst hedgehog-fleas are host-specific, and thus reduce the damage to other hosts, it is cause for concern, should you find a hedgehog with a very heavy flea infestation. The same is for blood-sucking ticks, which are often found on hedgehogs. In either case, the animal needs experienced help and you can find a directory of hedgehog rescues on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society's directory. Native to Central Asian countries and some parts of the Middle East, long-eared hedgehogs are particularly prone to carrying diseases as bad as the plague. As such, pet owners should be careful and purchase only from registered breeders.
Vehicles tend to kill hedgehogs, either accidentally or otherwise. In Ireland, the most common mammalian roadkill includes hedgehogs.
How Can We Save Hedgehogs?
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society
Bare Kind offers 10% of profits on our Save the Hedgehogs socks to the BHPS, who offer advice and help on rescuing and taking care of hedgehogs. They have a directory of all the hedgehog rescues in the country and an emergency number for urgent help. The charity aims to educate the public on hedgehog care, raise children to care for the world around them and fund research into hedgehogs. Our donations help the Society achieve its mission!
Want to Save Hedgehogs? Buy your pair of Save the Hedgehogs today!