Interview with a Hedgehog – #30dayswild
There’s been a lot of talk about our wildlife during #30dayswild, but what do they have to say for themselves? With my recently acquired Babel fish, I’ve decided to interview some of Britain’s native wildlife throughout June. First up is a hedgehog! Here’s how the conversation went:
Memetic Drift (MD): Hi there, thanks for agreeing to chat to me today. Could you confirm your name, please?
Erin: Hello. I’m Erinaceus europaeus, the European hedgehog, but you can call me Erin if you like?
MD: No problem. So Erin, where have you come from to meet me today?
Erin: Hedgehogs live all over the UK and much of Europe, but my home patch is a set of suburban gardens not far from Leicester.
MD: Sounds delightful. Now, tell me about the average day in the life of a hedgehog like yourself?
Erin: A “day” in the life would be pretty dull to describe, as we’re mostly nocturnal! But in the evenings and throughout the night we rummage around looking for beetles, caterpillars, worms, slugs and whatever else takes our fancy. We can be quite noisy eaters so listen out for us at night!
MD: Do you have a family?
Erin: Not yet, but I’m pregnant at the moment! I’m about half way through at the moment, expecting between four and six hoglets by July. I’ll be bringing them up myself, as usual. In some ways, it’s “the more, the merrier” and I’d love to have more babies to help our struggling population. However the thought of so many extra mouths to feed before hibernation is quite always quite daunting! Last year I got by OK with four, so we’ll see.
MD: Yes, I heard that your UK numbers have dropped from 30 million in the 1950s to under 1 million today. What dangers do you have to watch out for on your nightly buffets?
Erin: While we have to keep an eye out for foxes and badgers, the real dangers to us are the modern ones that we haven’t evolved for. I constantly worry about me and my future babies getting trapped under cars which go faster than we could ever hope to run away from, accidentally eating poisonous slug pellets while we hunt for worms, getting caught on bits of rubbish… all sorts of things really. But in the long term, I worry about having enough space to forage around. We don’t mind living near people at all, but it’s hard for us when they build and put up more and more barriers between our habitats. If we can’t move around, we can’t find enough food to feed ourselves, let alone our babies.
MD: Oh dear, that doesn’t sound like fun at all – is there any good news?
Erin: Yes, thankfully there are some lovely people who look after us and our welfare. In 2006 a nice group called the British Hedgehog Preservation Society convinced a big food company called McDonald’s (you may have heard of it?) to change the design of their McFlurry containers. Before that, lots of us were getting stuck in the plastic lids – the food smelled good but they were deathtraps as we couldn’t get our heads out. But now it’s safer for us. Of course, if humans were more careful about where they put their rubbish we would never have had this problem in the first place!
More recently, in March 2015, a big sanctuary opened up just for hedgehogs in the West Midlands. They’re going to learn more about how we move around, feed and breed so they can help us more in the future. Maybe I’ll go and visit one day!
MD: Yes, and there are plenty more potential hedgehog-helpers out there. What would you like to say to those people?
Erin: While individual gardens are cosy enough and have their fair share of worms and grubs, on their own they aren’t enough for hedgehogs with growing families. We prefer to check out many different gardens each night. I’m really lucky the people in my area have started putting hedgehog-sized holes in their fences so we can rummage around wider areas at night. That really helps and I wish other people would do the same.
We’re happy finding our own food so long as it’s not poisoned by slug pellets or pesticides, but of course we wouldn’t mind the odd treat as well. Cat food, dried mealworms and chopped unsalted peanuts are our favourites. No bread or milk please, we’re quite badly intolerant.
At the end of the night, we need somewhere sheltered to sleep, so perhaps keep a corner of your garden on the wild side. We love snuggling down in piles of logs and dead leaves, but you can make or buy houses specially made for us, too.
MD: Finally, what question do you have for the adder I’m interviewing next week?
Erin: Sure, can I see a picture? Oo-err, I guess I’d ask: “Are you really as angry as you look?”
MD: Right… sure, I’ll pass that on. Good luck in the future, Erin!
Erin: Thanks! *snuffles off*
MD: I hope you enjoyed that interview, it was certainly fun to do! Are there any species you’d like to see interviewed later this month?
Images courtesy of British Hedgehog Preservation Society, used with permission.
Saving hedgehogs from McFlurries
New West Midlands hedgehog sanctuary
Find out more and register you hedgehog-friendly hole at hedgehogstreet.org