🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A Trail Through Leaves

Hedgehog territory is a fragile ecosystem consisting of an approximate range of 2 or 3 kilometers, with a variety of grasses, shrubs and trees. When a hedgehog finds himself in a new, strange environment, he will start trotting in small circles, ever widening the circle until he has established the size of this new territory, in which he will then make his home.

Hedgehogs are equally at home in our gardens as in open fields, and if you have a garden with lots of ground cover, leaf litter, logs, water and places to hide, you might be lucky enough that a hedgehog family have made it their home. They will keep your garden free of snails and other pests and you might not be aware of their presence until you come upon strange little meandering 'pathways' that look like little highways criss-crossing the garden. These are there preferred routes and a hedgehog will spend hours trotting out the route until it is well-formed and clear of any debris. I have watched my hedgehogs for hours doing this and, if two hedgehogs' paths should happen to overlap or cross over each other, they will generally turn back and go in the other direction if encountering each other.

If treated with respect and not harassed or frightened in any way, hedgehogs become fairly tame, not being shy to come out at dusk and eat any food you might have put out for them. Their favourite snack is meal worms, which you should put in a slippery glass container, deep enough so that the meal worms can't climb out, but shallow enough for the hedgehogs to reach into. I have found that small fondue containers work very well.

East African Hedgehog

Southern African Hedgehog trotting out his trail

Woodland Hedgehogs living in a temperate climate build nests in which to hibernate during the winter cold. They construct the nest from leaves and grasses or take over old, abandoned nests. At first they may use the nests as temporary refuges for just a few days, but as the weather deteriorates they settle down for prolonged hibernation. Having fed greedily during the warmer months, the hibernating hedgehogs can survive on their reserves of body fat.

Their body temperature drops to a constant 6°C when they are hibernating, while their heart and breathing rates slow right down. The heartbeat drops from nearly 190 beats per minute to about 20 beats. Such reduction in the body’s metabolism decreases the rate at which the fat reserves are used up. And under no conditions should you disturb hedgehogs hibernating in your garden. Don't worry about them, they will be fine.

In mild winters, and in areas where the supply of food remains plentiful through the winter, or if you put food out for them on a constant and regular basis, European Hedgehogs may not hibernate at all. My hedgehogs used to do a sort of semi-hibernation, coming out every second or third night for a snack if the weather is not too cold. In the area where I live (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa), our winters very rarely go below -3ºC at night. Hibernation, therefore, is not a fixed habit of the species, but depends on environmental conditions.

I know keeping a garden free of falling and Autumn leaves is a high priority for most gardeners, but leaving leaf litter in your garden provides safety and food for many garden animals and birds as well as natural compost for your garden.
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"



  1. ...interesting that they walk in every widening circles to establish their territory! Such cute little fellows too... Thanks for all the info. I knew nothing about the little cuties.

  2. I also only clear away some of the leaves so hedgehogs have some cover to hide in during the winter and at night. In our new home we don't have as many leaves to worry about and there doesn't seem to be many hogs around, but they may turn up given time.



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