Hedgehog City

Well done to the Village Association who have secured a grant from the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Community and Conservation to fund and site a number of Hedgehog Houses around the village in ‘gardens and quiet places’. What a very worthwhile aim for this strange little creature.

I have dug out some facts about hedgehogs. A group of hedgehogs is called an array but to me an array is a computer data structure and it is not a word that slips into everyday parlance. Strange to have a word to describe a gathering of hedgehogs because they are solitary little creatures. They only come together to mate so a mother and her children would better be described as a family, or is that splitting hairs.

In the US it is illegal, in certain cities and states, to have a hedgehog as a pet and quite right, they are not like a cat or a dog or cat or even a tortoise. You cannot take them for a walk, or have them next to you on the sofa for a little stroke because the hog has between 5 and 7 thousand quills which they can raise and lower at will if there are threatening situations.

There are 17 species of hedgehog and as expected Australia has no indigenous hedgehogs. Those that are there were introduced like the rabbit and we all know what happened to those. The hedgehog obviously does not breed like a rabbit because I cannot find anywhere that the Australians have been over-run with the spiky little critters. You can understand why the Europeans introduced some of the wildlife from back home, but the hedgehog! Does it make good eating? Do you think that the Europeans understood the impact of introducing a species with no normal predators or did they just go for it! The list of introductions is quite big and it is not only animals/mammals but insects as well. About 3000 non-native species have been introduced into Australia since 1770. Red Foxes were introduced about 1850 so that the ‘good and the great’ had a plentiful supply of these to chase with horse and hound; ugh. Now foxes are mostly viewed as vermin and the use of dogs to flush a fox is allowed, but it must be shot. The problem with this statement is that each state can make its own laws in their control, so there is always a doubt. Some introduced species are not down to us Europeans because dingoes were introduced 3000 odd years ago from Asia. A strange addition on the list is the cane toad. Why the cane toad and who introduced it? So not content with having some of the deadliest creatures in the world in their new land the settlers beefed up the danger with a toxic toad.

Back to the hedgehog who has very poor eyesight, so they are reliant on their hearing and smell. A bit like some old people I know who have bad eyesight and smell. Their eyesight is best in the dark so another reason for them to only venture out at night. Their quills are mostly hollow and are not barbed or poisonous which is good because the only interaction I have had is to carry them out of roads. They do have a lot of fleas which must be quite annoying for them.

Their current name comes from the fact that they live and nest under hedges and they also snort like a pig. They are one of only three mammals that hibernate in the UK along with dormice and bats. Hedgehogs are largely immune to snake venom and they can eat them. That could be the theory behind their introduction into Australia, to kill and eat the 100 or so poisonous snakes that live there. Lastly, the little mammals used to be called urchins which is where the name for sea urchins comes from.