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Critters » Hedgehogs




Hedgehog


General Information:

A hedgehog (in Latin; Erinaceus) is a small creature with more than 7000 spines, four legs and a small tail. They first appeared on Earth 45 millions years ago, and have not changed too much since that era. Their favorite habitats are edges of forests, gardens and parks. Hedgehogs are active during evenings and nights, resting between five in the morning and eight in the evening, however if the food is available they can wonder around during a day as well. Hedgehogs like many other animals are in the danger of extinction caused by human activities which are leading to a constant decrease in places suitable for them to live (like bushes and hedges) and intensive traffic. They can be found naturally throughout Europe (up to the Arctic Circle), Africa, Asia. Hedgehogs were introduced by humans to: New Zealand, Corsica, Sycylia, Sardinia and some Scottish Islands.

Physical characteristics:

Hedgehogs have rather good sight and hearing, but their sense of smell is excellent. Their noses are always wet and so keen that even a worm hidden 3 cm under the ground will not be safe from a hedgehog. They may weigh anywhere from 450 - 700 grams. Fully grown, hedgehogs can weigh up to 2.5 kg before they go into a period of hibernation. Very mobile creatures, hedgehogs can crawl through narrow spaces, walk relatively large distances, run quickly and swim through rivers or streams. When threatened by predators or enemies that include foxes, badgers, dogs and some birds, hedgehogs quickly contract their muscles to curl themselves into a tight ball. Spikey, outwardly pointing quills along their backs help to keep them safe, until such time that they determine the threat to be gone.

Diet and Appetite:

Hedgehogs love to eat! Their food includes: worms, insects (bees and spiders), snakes and mice. In critical situations, they will also eat berries. As great consumers, hedgehogs take on large fat layers required during their hibernation period - a long winter's rest. The hedgehog is one of the largest insect-eating mammals.

Reproduction:

Lonely by nature, try to find mating partner during a spring time. Mating can take several hours, during which a male is franticly running in circles around a female. If he is admitted finally, after around 31-35 days small hogles, in a number from 2 to 7 will be born. They are covered by 100 spines, blind during their first two weeks of life. They are fed by mother's milk for 4 to 8 weeks. After two months the hedgehog mother stops caring for hoglets and let them live on their own. They have to prepare for their first hibernation. Around 90 % of hoglets will not survive their first year.

Survival and Hibernation During Winter:

Hibernation can last anywhere from up to 8 months in Scandinavia, or just few weeks in New Zealand. All life functions are slowed down. A hedgehog's body temperature may drops down to 9C. Though in cases of severe frost, hedgehog body temperature can lower even down to 1C. Breathing 1 to 10 times per minute. Heart beats are 1/10 of their normal rate. Hedgehog can wake up few times during hibernation. Waken up too early from his winter sleep hedgehog will starve to death...It is important that some fat reserves are still present during the end of hibernation, since this will allow a hedgehog to slowly wake up and regain life functions. When waking up, a hedgehog will weight something around 350 grams.



**Thanks to Joanna Porankiewicz-Asplund for providing E-Cards with the above information.



Green Fact:
The average coral reef is 6,000 to 9,000 years old. But our actions are threatening the survival of most reefs. Global warming, which causes coral bleaching, is probably the greatest single threat to reefs today.
 
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