Prickly Subject – Life On The Edge

The western European Hedgehog is a retiring little animal. Not always quiet, especially if there is a female involved and two males come courting, but this is not the usual situation, as it tends to lead a solitary life around the periphery of open country.

It wanders around an area of up to 100 acres munching goodies like beetles, but you won’t see it marching across open country as it lives a pretty fearful life according to the study of Hof et al who report it as living on the edge (1).

One might think that with a good set of prickles, the biggest predator threat would be automobiles as the hedgehogs attempt to cross the road, but that is not the case. Badgers and foxes are the main predators, although large owls, snakes and dogs are not averse to a snack of hedgehog if they get the opportunity. A badger or a fox will roll it over and stick their noses into the unprotected part of the bundle and open it up enough to snack down on the poor beast.

As a consequence, the hedgehogs skulk around the edges of fields in regions of a fear-laden landscape where the fear factor is lowest. The authors recommend developing more and wider hedgerows in order to enhance the density of useful wildlife like the hedgehog.

Many of us humans also live a life on the edge trying to avoid the stress and pressure of hungry salesmen and entrepreneurs devising ever more ways to eat up our precious resources. Maybe our politicians could take a time out and set up the equivalent of those hedgerows where we can pursue our life, liberty and happiness in peace and quiet.

  1. A.R. Hof, J. Snellenberg & P. E. Bright, Animal Behavior, (2012) in press

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