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A Prickly Problem For Europe's Hedgehogs

Photo: Mammals Trust
When you think of hedgehogs, you would think of cute, prickly mammals who happily shuffle around the English countryside.

Well, Iíve got news for you; THE HEDGEHOG NUMBERS ARE GOING DOWN! In fact, hedgies are now on the endangered list, this means thereís not many of them left whereas they used to be a very common sight.

The Mammals Trust of UK has recently done a survey (lots of people went out and counted how many they could find) and found that in some parts of England, there were about 40% fewer hedgehogs than 10 years before.

Photo: C.R.A.S.H.
No one is sure why their numbers are going down but there are many reasons why hedgehogs die. For a start, even though they can move at 40 metres per minute (wow!!!), they move slowly enough to get run over a lot on roads. They also drown in swimming pools and they also get trapped under cattle grids and canít get out again.

Some people try to help hedgehogs and put out a dish of milk and bread to encourage hedgehogs to stay in their garden.  But, hedgehogs cannot cope with the sugar in milk which is called lactose making this kind act does more harm than good. They also get burnt in bonfires since hedgehogs like to burrow into them to sleep and hibernate (a long sleep that lasts all winter).

Slug pellets can poison hedgehogs in two ways.  Hedgehogs will sometimes eat the pellets but will also eat slugs which have been killed using slug bait. In either case, the result is a terrible death.

The closest looking things we have in Australia are echidnas.

Photo: Pelican Lagoon Research Centre
They both have spiky bodies but echidnas lay eggs. They both eat insects and seem to share the habit of walking slowly on roads. When we were just on our ski-ing holiday in the Snowy Mountains, we had a very big echidna cross the road in front of our car. We only just managed to stop in time!

Even though hedgehogs donít live in Australia, the safety tips are just as important over here for our echidnas and other animals.
  • Donít feed an animal unless you are SURE that what you are giving them is OK. Contact a vet or a wildlife organisation like WIRES (ph: 1800 641 188)

  • Always check fires and clumps of leaves/grass for hibernating lizards and other animals.

  • Take care on roads, particularly in country areas and at dusk (when daytime is turning dark) and be prepared to stop for creatures Ė but not if it puts cars behind you in danger.

  • If you do stop Ė only let an adult get out of the car to check the creature.

  • If itís not hurt then just let it go on its way safely, it may have babies waiting for food.
Fun Fact:
Hedgehogs often lick objects until their saliva (spit) becomes frothy and then they cover it on their spines. No one knows why!

Story: Freya Wadlow