Hedgehogs, or Erinaceus Europaeus, are little spiky carnivorous mammals usually found in Asia, Africa, and Europe. There are around 20 species with varying characteristics and features.
With the popularity of hedgehogs on the rise, some people may still be unable to recognize them. They have spikes, sure — but is that all?
If you’re not sure how to recognize a hedgehog, in this article, Floofmania will help you tell hedgehogs apart from other animals by judging their appearance, sounds, and other signs. Continue reading to get started!
How Do I Recognize A Hedgehog?
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It is understandable not to know what a hedgehog looks and sounds like, especially when you haven’t seen one before. Fortunately, these spiky creatures possess distinct characteristics, such as their size, colors, fur, spikes, and physical features.
With that in mind, here are some of the hedgehogs’ attributes that might help you recognize their physiques.
Hedgehogs Have Spikes or “Quills”
Hedgehogs have short spikes called “quills” on their backs, which look a lot like porcupine spikes. Hedgehogs have between 3,000 and 6,000 quills, which are made from keratin, the same protein that makes people’s hair and nails.
Usually, hedgehogs use these quills as self-defense whenever they get frightened of predators in the wild. In these instances, they curl themselves into a ball to become a little ball of sharp spikes.
Nevertheless, even though these quills look quite frightening, they will not hurt you if you gently handle them.
Hedgehog Size and Build
There are a lot of different kinds of hedgehogs, such as Four-Toed, Amur, Desert, and Indian hedgehogs. Generally, they have squat and short physiques, but their specific species significantly affect their overall length and weight.
On average, these animals can be as big as 12 inches or as small as approximately four inches. Their weight can also range from five to 56 ounces.
Yet, aside from these kinds, the most common hedgehog species in Europe and the type people generally keep as pets in the US are the European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, and African pygmy hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris.
Hedgehog Fur and Colorations
Hedgehogs can have different colors around their body, including pale brown, deep brown, black, and white. Some may also have black or deep brown markings on their face or masks across their eyes, depending on the species.
Furthermore, these spiky little animals can have short and roughly-textured fur or coarse hair around their necks, faces, stomachs, and tails beside their spikes.
To describe the most common hedgehog in Europe and the US, the European hedgehog has a speckled brown and cream back. It has a furry brown face with black eyes and nose.
On the other hand, the African pygmy hedgehog possesses tiny, non-barbed spikes embedded on its skin. It also has coarse hair on its underbelly, face, and limbs.
Other Physical Features Of Hedgehogs
Even though they are small, hedgehogs have strong, but short legs with sizable feet of five toes each. However, some species can have four toes.
These creatures also have curved claws, which allow them to be excellent diggers. They also have small tails that look like the tip of your pinky finger, and around 36 to 44 teeth.
Aside from that, hedgehogs have long snouts and wet noses that give them an incredible sense of smell. They can also hear things clearly due to their big ears.
Can I Recognize A Hedgehog From Its Sound?
Hedgehogs make a lot of different sounds to express different emotions and needs. Keeping your ears open around your property is a great way to identify a hedgehog.
For instance, a hedgehog searching for food at night will sometimes make a sound resembling the grunting of a pig. This noise may also indicate that they feel happy, so it is best to leave them with what they are doing.
Female hedgehogs will make a chuffing sound during their mating season in May and June. This is a distinctive noise that sounds a little like a steam train, so it’s quite recognizable!
Ducks are not the only animals that make quacking sounds, because hedgehogs can also make such a sound. It is a peculiar-sounding distress call signifying that a hedgehog is in pain or stuck into something.
Also, baby hedgehogs can chirp like birds whenever they want to call or ask for food.
If you want to know more about hedgehog sounds, noises, and what they mean, go read this specific article.
Does A Hedgehog Leave Tracks That Can Help Identifying Them?
If a hedgehog roams around your house or property, chances are that it does so at night. And since they’re mostly creatures of the night, you may not be aware that there are hedgehogs in your yard after dark.
Fortunately, these nocturnal animals often leave tracks and signs, such as footprints and droppings, that can help you identify them despite not directly seeing them.
Identifying Hedgehog Pawprints
Hedgehogs don’t weigh much, so they will only rarely leave visible pawprints unless the ground is very soft. Once they do, you will notice that these prints are around one inch (2.5 cm) long and a bit more than one inch (2.8 cm) wide.
Both hedgehogs’ front and back feet have five toes, but it is possible that only five will be visible in some footprints. The front tracks can be spread out, resembling tiny human handprints, while the back paws often look longer, slimmer, and narrower.
As stated, hedgehogs don’t often leave pawprints, but if you check muddy areas in your yard, you may be in luck.
Also, you can set up a footprint trap or create a hedgehog footprint tunnel to know if hedgehogs are wandering around your place.
These tunnels are usually black plastic triangles with paper attached to either end and painted ink on the bait bowl. They will attract hedgehogs to feed on the bait and leave trails once they run away.
Looking For Hedgehog Droppings
Seeing hedgehog droppings is also a clear indication that they’re living nearby. Hedgehog feces is most commonly found in the areas where the animal forages for food at night.
If you look for hedgehog poop, you will notice that the droppings are usually black or dark brown in color. That is because their diet consists of beetles and other insects.
For the same reason, the exoskeletons of invertebrates and insects are often visible in their feces. Their poop can even look glistening with an almost metallic appearance!
Aside from that, hedgehog droppings’ sizes can range from ½ to 2 inches in length, and often in a tubular, banana-like shape, tapered in the ends.
Nevertheless, ensure not to confuse hedgehog poop with other animals’ feces. Here’s how to tell hedgehog poop apart from the feces of some other animals:
- Cats – Felines usually have lighter-colored poop with a looser consistency, and they have a tendency to cover their feces with soil after doing their business.
- Foxes – These animals often produce longer, darker, and more twisted feces than hedgehog poo in prominent locations. You can also notice feathers, fur, and other debris or food remains in their poops.
- Rodents – While rodents can be very different, their droppings are generally small, and shaped like small pellets.
Leaves and Foliage Disturbed By Hedgehogs
Lastly, a way to recognize whether or not you have a hedgehog in your garden is by checking on piles of logs, leaves, and compost heaps. As most people know, these mammals love resting or settling in dark and damp places, so it is not rare to see them in those areas.
Hedgehogs can also leave trails as they wander around to look for a place where they can sleep. In most instances, you can notice their paw prints on hedgehog footprint tunnels, scattered leaves, or destroyed bundles of compost waste in your backyard.
Is It Difficult to Recognize A Hedgehog?
You can get perplexed about recognizing hedgehogs at first because people may think that all spiky animals are the same. Nonetheless, you can distinguish them as long as you take note of their distinctive features, noise, and tracks.
Finding them in your area may prove difficult because they only come out at night and are rather discreet. Yet, these creatures are not rare and are considered the least concern on the International Red List of Threatened Species.