Latin Name: Erinaceous Europaeus
The hedgehog is a nocturnal creature which means he only comes out at night. If you see him during the day, it probably means he needs help. So ring your local vet or contact us at the DSPCA on www.dspca.ie or 01-499 4700 and ask for advice.
The hedgehog is covered with a coat of extremely sharp spines and it can roll into a ball in order to protect itself from predators; except dogs and badgers. During the day time and during their period of hibernation, the hedgehog will sleep in a specially built nest, normally located in thick undergrowth, i.e. under a bed of leaves or in black plastic rubbish sacks left lying on the ground.
The hedgehog usually eats all kinds of garden visitors, including beetles, worms, slugs and snails. If he cannot find this type of food in the countryside, he will move into gardens and eat garden pests. He can also eat good quality tinned dog or cat food and will need plenty of water. Do not give a hedgehog milk as it can upset their stomachs.
The hedgehog is not suitable as a family pet. He is a wild animal and will never be suitable to settle in captivity. He is nocturnal and can be quite smelly. He will happily visit your garden, allow you to see him – unlike other wild animals – but do not encourage him to be a pet.
The baby hedgehog is called an ‘urchin.’ The male of the species takes no part in rearing the babies. They are born to the female after a 35 day pregnancy. The female usually gives birth to about 4 or 5 babies but has been known to have 10. She makes a nest/nursery under a pile of leaves. This is very often to be found in a shed or out building. When the urchins are born their first spines are white and are covered by skin. Very soon the spines will break through. At birth, their eyes and ears are closed but will open at about 14 days; their teeth follow around 21 days after birth.
At 8 weeks, the baby urchins are ready to become independent. If an urchin happens to fall outside the nest it will make a distress sound that resembles a high pitched piping noise. It is of no use to the urchin if you pop him back into the nest with other hedgehogs, he will simply be eaten. Rearing them yourself by hand is very difficult and should only be undertaken by a trained wildlife rescue officer.
Do not give the baby anything to drink and definitely do not give milk.
If you discover a nest of urchins, do not disturb it or them. Simply cover it up and leave it alone. The mother will usually return very soon after but will not return if human scent is on her babies.
Below are some more Do’s and Don’ts
· Do leave areas of wilderness where hedgehogs can snuffle for insects.
· Do put out drinking water
· Do put out good quality dog or cat food (not fish based).
· Do install, in a nice, quiet area of the garden, a hedgehog house or a stack of logs
· Don’t put out any bread or milk for a hedgehog
· Don’t pick up uninjured or fit and healthy hedgehogs
· Don’t leave black sacks or rubbish lying around
· Don’t use chemicals or slug pellets – they can poison hedgehogs and other animals, if you must use them up them under a slate where animals can’t reach them easily.
· Don’t light bonfires without checking to see if a hedgehog’s home is underneath – also check for other wildlife who may have built their homes under unlit bonfires.
· Don’t fork over compost heaps in case a hedgehog or another animal has built their home there.
· Don’t use your strimmer under hedges and undergrowth without checking these areas first, hedgehogs and other animals may be resting there during the day.
· Do keep all nets above ground when not in use, keep fruit nets taut.
· Don’t leave drains or similar open holes uncovered. Make sure ponds have a way out for small animals, house brick steps or wire mesh can be used to give the animals a chance to get out if they fall in.
· Don’t spray hedgehogs with flea spray. It can be harmful to them.
And another thing…
· Hedgehog fleas do not live on dogs, cats, humans or inside houses.
· If a hedgehog has ticks, they are not usually a problem unless there are dozens of them which can then lead to anemia. (Ticks present themselves as grayish, shiny lumps and are often found behind the ears).
· Hedgehogs will not hibernate outside of their nests.
· The hedgehog is not a rodent. Its nearest relative is the mole.