Think you’re a hedgehog expert? Check you haven’t been taken in by any of these common misconceptions
All hedgehogs sleep through the winter
European hedgehogs living in warmer parts of the continent can remain active all year. Even in countries where they hibernate, hedgehogs sometimes wake up and go for a walk to find a new sleeping spot or some extra food. Species in hot climates such as deserts sleep through heat and drought in a process similar to hibernation known as aestivation.
Hedgehogs pass fleas to pets
Hedgehogs do play host to fleas, but these are hedgehog fleas. The parasites are host-specific and will not survive if they transfer onto a cat or dog. Hedgehogs can, however, carry and transmit salmonella, so wash your hands thoroughly after handling one or wear gloves.
Hedgehogs in your garden should be fed bread and milk
Hedgehogs will happily eat it, but this meal will make them very unwell indeed. Bread is bad for a hedgehog’s teeth, has no nutritional value for them and can swell in their stomachs, making them think they are full. Hedgehogs are unable to process lactose, so milk can give them a fatally upset stomach. If you want to feed them, leave water and cat food, chopped unsalted peanuts or dried mealworms.
A hedgehog out in the day is ill
An adult hedgehog active during daylight hours is probably not well, but it’s not unusual for young animals to roam in the day. They’re still transitioning to nocturnal life from being awake at all times to feed. Mothers may also venture out in daylight hours in summer to find more food or nest material. If in doubt, call your local wildlife rescue centre for advice.
If you find an injured or clearly unwell hedgehog in your garden, pick it up using thick gloves and place it in a cardboard box with some newspaper and a dish of water in the bottom and a towel to hide under before taking it to a wildlife centre.
Learn more about hedgehogs in Issue 48 of World of Animals, available in stores or online!
(Feature photo: Milo Bostock/flickr)