Here’s a prickly tale for day five of 30 Days Wild…
Most of the ‘worst’ swear words in the English language relate to human waste or sex. I’m not sure if hedgehogs have swear words, but this post includes references to hedgehog sex and poo. You might want to ‘click away’ now if you are of a nervous disposition. (Not really.)
If you’ve ever heard the noisy, snuffling snorts of hedgehogs at this time of year the following may ring a bell. It’s dark outside. If you live with someone, they might already have gone to bed. You’re still up, maybe making hot drink before you join them or go to your own room. It’s quiet outside, but then you hear something. Something weird. It’s a bit like a dog sniffing round the kitchen floor or doing one of those prolonged in-and-out sniffs when it’s trying to capture an especially enticing smell. Except louder. You’ve heard it before. You know it’s hedgehogs – and yet every time you hear it it sounds too loud to come from such a small creature so you have to go outside to check.
Fortunately, this is a wildlife article and not a horror story. I wasn’t attacked by a chainsaw wielding weirdo or some other psychopath. I was met with even louder snorting though and although I didn’t want to disturb them, I did briefly shine a torch in the direction of the sound to check that it was hedgehogs.
There were two of them, engaged in what I now know to be courtship. Whereby the male repeatedly circles the female and she keeps rebuffing him – perhaps as a test of his stamina and fitness as a father. (Probably more in terms of genes than anything else, as I gather hedgehog parenting is the preserve of single mothers.) How do hedgehogs have sex? Carefully. Because of all those prickly spines, it’s apparently a tricky affair. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. They’re only courting at the moment.
It’s nearly midnight when I encounter the amorous and spiky duo. I’m normally in bed long before that but we’d stayed up late re-watching the first series of Green Wing on DVD. Nevertheless, I think my husband will want to see these courting hedgehogs so I wake him up. He is pretty much beside himself at seeing them, not least because he’s put in a lot of work to make our garden hedgehog-friendly.
I’ve had two hedgehog sightings already this spring. Once I saw one heading up the side of our house, presumably to the hole cut out of the gate for it. I was struck by what long legs it seemed to have. Hedgehogs in drawings are often portrayed as having stumpy little legs. This beast seemed almost tall by comparison. The second time was early in the morning when I spotted one under a bush in the garden. Perhaps going to bed after a night on the tiles.
If you don’t actually see hedgehogs, you might be able to tell if they visit your garden by finding their poo. There are various books and websites where you can look up a poo to see what creature might have dropped it off. I highly recommend this and have fond memories of a Wildlife Trust stand at the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Show which featured a ‘poo corner’. I was so impressed I made a radio piece about it. Seeing hedgehogs definitely has the edge over just seeing their poo though.
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