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The European Hedgehog

 

From Beatrix Potter’s stories to the nervous family in the Wind in the willows; catching a glimpse of the European hedgehogs always feels like seeing an old friend.

This fascinating species of mammal is prevalent over large portions of Europe; ranging from the British Isles, to the Mediterranean islands and all the way to West Russia.

Across such a vast distribution they have heavily featured in a array of European folklore.

Some, simply humanise them as well-mannered workaholics with a penchant for mushrooms. While other stretch the imagination, one even suggests that it was a hedgehog that convinced the sun to call off his marriage to the moon.

While many have little basis in the real world, some hedgehogs have observed occasionally supplementing their diet with mushrooms.

In reality, these small omnivorous are closely related to shrews and moles and their bodies are relatively unspecialised. This is, of course, aside from their trademark spines which, numbering at around 6,000 per hog, act as a defensive armour.

A mechanism that they learn to use at a young age.

By the time they are thirty-six hours old, their second, outer coat of spines will have begun to sprout and by eleven days old they will be able to roll into a ball.

These young will usually have been born between June and August, and will be weaned for around six weeks by their mother. She will tend to them, offer them milk and keep them warm.

Eventually, as the cold shows signs of returning, they will part ways. All of them must eat enough to survive their hibernation. Many fail and after human-related deaths, their most common killer is starvation.

 

 

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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