Jun 28 2019

June 2019’s Animal Of The Month – Hedgehogs

Our Animal of the Month for June is getting ready to enjoy the Canada Day long weekend, so we must say farewell to the hedgehog today. We hope you have enjoyed following us on Twitter @ExoticPetVets as we tweeted about these prickly little pets. In case you missed any of our tweets, we are offering a summary for your reference. Did you know?:

  • There are 17 species of hedgehogs, but the most common one kept in captivity is the African Pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris).
  • In the wild, hedgehogs are not only found in Africa, but they are also native to Asia and Europe.
  • Humans introduced hedgehogs into New Zealand and now they are an invasive species threatening the country’s native species.
  • New Zealand’s Department of Conservation says hedgehogs were first brought there in the 1870’s by European settlers to remind them of their homeland.
  • Hedgehogs were also brought to New Zealand to control garden grubs, snails and slugs.
  • Hedgehogs are highly adaptable and live in a variety of different environments in the wild.
  • Hedgehogs typically live in meadows, grasslands and woodlands. They can also be found on farmland, in orchards, vineyards and sometimes in semi-desert areas.
  • A recent University of Hamburg study found that hedgehogs have adapted very well to urban areas and adjust their activity around human disruption.
  • With the help of GPS trackers, the researchers found urban hedgehogs had a much smaller range than hedgehogs who lived in rural areas – five hectares compared to 50 hectares, respectively.
  • The study also found that urban hedgehogs slept in private gardens and parks in the daytime and after people stopped walking their dogs for the day, the hedgehogs would emerge (usually around midnight) to forage for food and look for mates.
  • If you’re a night owl, a hedgehog would be the perfect pet for you as hedgehogs are nocturnal and sleep many hours during the day – up to 18 hours!
  • Hedgehogs may love their sleep, but it’s not because they’re lazy. They will use sleep to protect themselves against temperature extremes.
  • Wild hedgehogs who live in colder climates will hibernate in the winter while their cousins who live in warmer environments will do the same during periods of drought and extreme heat in a process called aestivation.
  • At night, hedgehogs use their waking hours to forage for food. But when looking for their meals, they rely on their senses of hearing and smell as their eyesight is very poor.
  • The hedgehog is not a hog, nor does she live in a hedge. The hedgehog is so named because of the unusual way she forages for food in the wild.
  • Hedgehogs search for their food by rooting through hedges and other undergrowth, which accounts for the “hedge” part of their name. While they are foraging, they make grunting noises – similar to the way pigs grunt – hence, the “hog” part of their name.
  • Hedgehogs are mainly insectivores, which means they primarily eat insects. But they will also eat snakes, mice and frogs in the wild.
  • The African pygmy hedgehog, which is the most common hedgehog species kept in captivity, is a small mammal with a long pinkish-brown snout and short coarse white-grey hair on his face and underbelly.
  • The backs of hedgehogs are covered with approximately 6,000 quills, which are hard and hollow, The quills are made of keratin – the same substance that makes up our hair and fingernails.
  • African pygmy hedgehogs are small. When fully-grown, they measure 6-8 inches (15-20 cms) in length and weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds (18-25 ounces).
  • African pygmy hedgehogs are sexually dimorphic, meaning there is a visible difference between the genders. In this case, females are larger than their male counterparts.
  • Some people may think hedgehogs and porcupines are related given both of their prickly appearances, but they are not related at all.
  • While porcupines and hedgehogs both have quills to defend themselves, they do so very differently.
  • Porcupine quills are released when they come into contact with a predator, while hedgehogs curl up into a prickly ball and can thrust their sharp spines into a predator’s skin to defend themselves.
  • In the wild, African pygmy hedgehogs live around 2-3 years. But with proper care in captivity, they can live to about 5 years.

This is the second time hedgehogs have been featured as our Animal of the Month. Check out our blog post from September 2015 to see our tweets about hedgehogs the first time around!

lracadmin | Blog

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