Photograph by Henry Ausloos/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes
- Head and body, 5 to 12 in (13 to 30 cm); Tail, 1 to 2 in (3 to 5 cm)
- 14 to 39 oz (397 to 1,106 g)
- Size relative to a tea cup:
There are some 15 species of hedgehog in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Hedgehogs have also been introduced into nontraditional ranges such as New Zealand. The hedgehog was named because of its peculiar foraging methods. These animals root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of the small creatures that compose the bulk of their diet—insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs, and snakes. As a hedgehog picks its way through the hedges it emits piglike grunts—thus, the hedgehog.
Some people consider hedgehogs useful pets because they prey on many common garden pests. While on the hunt, they rely upon their senses of hearing and smell because their eyesight is weak.
Hedgehogs have a coat of stiff, sharp spines. If attacked they will curl into a prickly and unappetizing ball that deters most predators. They usually sleep in this position during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
Hedgehogs hibernate in cold climates. In deserts, they sleep through heat and drought in a similar process called aestivation. They remain active all year in more temperate locations.
These solitary animals typically couple only for mating. The young born each year, in litters ranging from one to eleven, remain with their mothers for only four to seven weeks before heading out on their own. Among the predators females must guard against during this period are other male hedgehogs, which will sometimes prey upon the young of their species. Hedgehog mothers have also been known to eat their young if the nest is disturbed, though they sometimes simply move them to a new nest.
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