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Basics on the topic The Hedgehog
Hedgehogs – Way of Life and Hibernation
Do you ever feel like curling up comfortably, closing your eyes, and sleeping through the entire winter until spring arrives? Humans can't do that. We would get too hungry or thirsty. But, there are animals that actually do roll up and sleep through the entire winter – one of these is the hedgehog. But why do hedgehogs hibernate? What happens during this time, and how do hedgehogs wake up from hibernation? You will learn all of this in this learning text.
Hedgehogs – General Characteristics
Hedgehogs are mammals and forest animals. Their protective coat of spines is striking. During the day, they like to stay in protected hedges and bushes. At dusk, they come out of their hiding places and go in search of food.
In the following table, you will find a brief profile of the hedgehog.
|species in Europe||
Despite having spines on their back and sides, hedgehogs are not protected from all dangers. Above all, road traffic poses a significant risk to hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs – Behavior in Winter
Winters in Europe can be cold and long. The food supply becomes scarce. That's why various hibernation strategies developed in the animal world to survive these harsh winter months. The hedgehog also uses one such overwintering strategy. Since hedgehogs are insectivores, they do not find any food in winter and, therefore, have to go into hibernation.
How do hedgehogs prepare for winter?
In autumn, hedgehogs build up a layer of fat that provides enough energy for the winter months. A hedgehog should weigh at least one pound before it begins hibernation. In general, in late autumn, hedgehogs should not be taken home by humans. They are not dependent on our help. On the contrary, if they are fed incorrectly, they can even die. However, if a hedgehog weighs less than one pound, there is a risk that they will not survive the winter. In that case, they can be taken to a hedgehog care center, where they receive appropriate care.
When and where do hedgehogs hibernate?
When the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, hedgehogs look for a suitable place to hibernate. This usually happens in October or November. Leaf piles often serve as winter quarters, where hedgehogs build a nest to keep dry and protected. Humans can help hedgehogs by leaving leaf and brush piles in the fall and providing enough lodgings for hedgehogs to overwinter in their garden.
What happens to hedgehogs during hibernation?
During hibernation, the body temperature, heartbeat rate, and number of breaths per minute decrease. As a result, hedgehogs consume significantly less energy. The body temperature adjusts to the ambient temperature.
Therefore, a hedgehog in hibernation can easily be mistaken for being dead since it feels cold, and there are hardly any breathing movements or heartbeats. However, a typical sign of a hedgehog in hibernation is that they are curled up like a ball. If you find such a hedgehog, you should not disturb them.
What happens if a hedgehog wakes up from hibernation prematurely?
If it gets too cold, and the hedgehog could freeze, it wakes up, shakes to generate heat, and looks for a new, warmer winter lodging. However, this is an energy-consuming process and should not happen too frequently. Otherwise, the hedgehog could starve to death.
If the winter temperatures are very mild, the hedgehog may also wake up and leave their winter lodging. They then go in search of food, urinate, or change their sleeping place. However, it is essential that they find a good place to spend the rest of the winter afterward.
Incidentally, a hibernation that is interrupted several times is called torpor. Hedgehog species in western and Central Europe often go into a torpor. The warmer the region, the greater the chance that there will only be a torpor.
Why don't hedgehogs starve during hibernation?
Hedgehogs do not go in search of food during hibernation. Instead, they live off their fat reserves. If the fat layer built up in autumn is large enough, the energy is sufficient to maintain life functions.
How long does hibernation last for hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs' hibernation can last up to five months. When temperatures rise again in spring, hedgehogs also awaken from hibernation. The body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate of the hedgehog increase again. Since their fat reserves have been used up during hibernation, the hedgehog is quite emaciated in spring. Therefore, it is essential to begin searching for food immediately after the end of hibernation.
Hedgehogs – Summary
You have learned a lot about hedgehogs. You know that they hibernate, when hibernation begins and ends for hedgehogs, and how to recognize if a hedgehog is in hibernation. Furthermore, you can find more information about hedgehogs with our interactive exercises and worksheets on the topic of Hedgehogs – Way of Life and Hibernation. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions on The Hedgehog
Transcript The Hedgehog
Newton is on a discovery tour through the forest. What is that? It's a hedgehog! Let's learn together with Newton all about "the hedgehog". The hedgehog is easy to see. They have spiked fur, called quills. Hedgehogs live in different parts of the world, but they are only found in zoos or as pets in the U.S. . THIS hedgehog lives in Europe, and is called the European Hedgehog, Hedgehogs look cute, but don't be fooled. The hedgehog is a predator, an insectivore AND carnivore. This means that the hedgehog eats insects and other animals. They eat insects such as beetles, ... arthropods like spiders, and isopods such as a roly-poly, ... mollusks like slugs, ... small birds, ... and rodents such as small mice. They are also scavengers, which means, they eat dead animals. The hedgehog's habitat provides many places to hide. Long grass, ... hedges, ... foliage and ... rotting wood are things that can be found in their habitat. Since there aren't many large fields near a city, not many hedgehogs live there. However, hedgehogs can hide particularly well in the cities and towns and in people's gardens. When animals like the hedgehog live near people in cities, they are known as cultural successors. Each hedgehog has a special place where they build several shelters to live in. Their home can be in a hollow tree trunk, ... an old garden house or ... in a large pile of leaves. It's important that the shelter is dry and protects them from the wind. Sometimes people like to do something nice for a hedgehog, like build them a shelter! Hedgehogs are common and have a very specific lifestyle. People rarely see them, but do you know why? Hedgehogs are nocturnal. This means, they sleep during the day and are active at night. If a hedgehog is spotted, it is usually alone: hedgehogs are loners. Therefore, every hedgehog has an area where they build several shelters to live in alone. Some tips people follow to make their garden hedgehog-friendly are: Poison for mice or snails can harm the hedgehog. So it is important not to use it. If someone finds a particularly small hedgehog in autumn, they can bring it to a shelter or feed it cat food. Because only larger hedgehogs survive the winter. Remember, to always ask a parent before treating animals. A hedgehog has to weigh at least as much as a small water bottle to prepare for winter. Older hedgehogs can weigh as much as a large water bottle. Ah there is Newton! Let's see what ze wrote down in zir notebook. Hedgehogs, have a spiked fur ... and are loners. We rarely see them because they are nocturnal. Hedgehog's food consists of smaller animals and insects. Since their habitat is similar to gardens, cities, and towns, they sometimes live near humans. We therefore call hedgehogs, cultural successors. People can help hedgehogs that need food or shelter. Hedgehogs are really great animals! Now Newton has learned enough about Hedgehogs, so ze sets back on zir way. Until next time!
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The Hedgehog exercise
Would a hedgehog eat this?Hints
A hedgehog is an insectivore, which means it eats insects such as beetles and spiders.
A hedgehog is a carnivore which means it eats other animals, such as small birds and small mice.Solution
Yes, a hedgehog would eat all of these food options.
A hedgehog is a predator, insectivore, carnivore, and scavenger. This means they eat insects and other animals, such as beetles, spiders, slugs, small birds, small mice, and dead animals.
Would a hedgehog live here?Hints
Hedgehogs like to live in places where they can hide, such as long grass.
Hedgehogs like to live in places where they can hide, such as rotting wood.Solution
Yes, a hedgehog would live in all of these places.
Hedgehogs live in places with long grass, hedges, foliage, and rotting wood. When they are near cities, they choose habitats such as hollow tree trunks, old garden houses, large piles of leaves, or shelters made for them by people.
What kind of lifestyle do hedgehogs live?Hints
Hedgehogs build several shelters in an area to live in alone.
Hedgehogs sleep during the day and are active at night.
There are 3 correct choices.Solution
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal.
- Hedgehogs are loners.
- Hedgehogs live in habitats where people rarely see them.
What are some important facts about the hedgehog?Hints
A habitat is where an animal lives.
A lifestyle is how an animal lives.Solution
- can hide
- long grass
- and big piles of dried leaves
- beetles and spiders, small mice, and small birds
- active at night
What types of food and habitat do hedgehogs prefer?Hints
Hedgehogs prefer habitats that provide places to hide.
Hedgehogs are predators that eat insects and other animals.Solution
Blue Circle: Foods
- Hedgehogs eat (amongst other things): spiders, rodents, and dead animals.
- Hedgehogs prefer habitats that allow them to hide, such as a pile of leaves, rotting wood, and tall grass.
Which explanation best describes what a "cultural successor" is?Hints
Hedgehogs are loners. This means they don't live with other hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs may live in garden sheds or in shelters that people have made for them.
A cultural successor has to do with animals living in cities.Solution
A cultural successor is when animals like the hedgehog live near people in cities.