Coming home one night I saw the outline of a hedgehog in the middle of the road. For a brief moment, the animal froze like a living statue; I acted instinctively and slammed on the brakes; the animal gave me a considered look, wheezed over to the verge on the other side and vanished into the hedgerow.
Unlike my vehicle, hedgehogs have the habit of moving at around two miles per hour but can still travel considerable distances as they forage for food at night. Hedgehogs eat a variety of food, including several species of slugs; preferring the tasty, grey, field ones to the somewhat bitter brown and black variety. However, they will even eat pet food that has been put out for them, although they do turn up their noses if it contains fish.
They will also gorge themselves on apples and any other fruit they can get their teeth into. Their diet enables them to survive the long hibernation from November to March. Early warm weather can induce them to wake up before this but this year the opposite is happening.
The hedgehog’s spines are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin. They aren’t poisonousÂ but normally come out when a hedgehog sheds baby spines and replaces them with adult spines, a process known as “quilling.”
Sadly, some people only see hedgehogs as squashed corpses in the middle of the road, so, when you are next out driving at night, remember the ‘Don’t Squash Me’ car sticker, for the survival of even one hedgehog can mean the survival of the whole species.