Hedgehog Self-Anointing

The hedgehogs have been busy in our garden and I’ve been busy watching them over the last few weeks. I could spend hours watching them – which is fortunate as I’ve ended up with a lot of trail cam footage – mainly of them stuffing their faces with the food I’m putting out. But amongst all the scoffing, there’s been some really interesting behaviour; so here’s another hoggy update.

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you might remember that a few weeks ago  we took custody again of Fred, one of two young hedgehogs we’d rescued from a hot lawn earlier in the summer. Fred had been cared for by Malvern Hedgehog Rescue until he was old enough and big enough to come back to our garden. He seems to have settled in well and appears regularly on the trail cam. He’s now been seen several times doing this to the older, larger hedgehog:

Initially we had no idea what was going on, but thanks to Little Silver Hedgehog (https://littlesilverhedgehog.wordpress.com/) we now know that Fred was probably self-anointing. A bit of googling revealed that this slightly odd behaviour is common in hedgehogs. If they find a smell that they find particularly interesting (not necessarily a pleasant one!) they will lick or chew at the source of the smell and then twist round to lick themselves with frothy saliva. It’s not clear why they do this – perhaps trying to blend in with the smell of their surroundings? If this is the case it seems Fred was finding the smell of the larger hog really interesting and either wanted to smell the same (hedgehoggy equivalent to wanting to smell like a celebrity’s perfume!) or was just trying to fit in with the local hedgehogs?

Whatever the reason, he was very persistent to the point that he really started to annoy the larger hog (who I am now calling Fred Senior). Fred Senior initially starts to curl into a ball, perhaps thinking he’s under attack.

But once he realises it is only a smaller hedgehog he spins round and snaps at poor Fred with an annoyed squeak.

Fred is undeterred though and continues rooting about in the adult’s spines before wriggling about to lick the smell onto his own spines.

Without the trail cam we would never have known about self-anointing, let alone witnessed it in our own garden. Hopefully we’ll get more interesting behaviour from our prickly friends over time.

With autumn fast approaching (technically already here as we’re passed the equinox), we decided to provide a (hopefully) des res for our hoggy friends. We could have built one ourselves, but this is after all a Lazy Garden, so an online purchase did the job instead. New residence features an entrance tunnel, which hopefully the hogs can get in but the cats can’t. Runners beneath the box and ventilation gap in the top allow air to circulate and prevent condensation.

hedgehog-box

The box has been tucked away in a corner of the garden and following advice from the good people of Twitter, has been provided with straw bedding and a plastic sheet on top to prevent the lid getting cold and wet. I’m also trying to gather up leaves in the garden as they fall to dry out and provide further bedding.

Of course having put the box out, I couldn’t resist setting up the camera to see if it would get any action. I put some food out near the box to tempt them into the corner of the garden. Really chuffed that within the first couple of nights Fred headed into the box to check it out. I don’t expect him to set up residence in it just yet, but it seems a good sign that he’s investigating it.

Fred senior has been making the most of the food and sniffing round the box, but I’ve not actually caught him going in it yet. But I was really pleased last night when a beetle had fallen in the food bowl (beetle was probably not so pleased) and got stuck – Fred senior was munching the regular food when he clearly spots the black beetle and snaps it up. Beetles are apparently a favourite food, so it was great to catch this on camera.

One extra thing I’ve been trying to do was to get some footprints.  I’d seen on other blogs that you can get ink sheets for recording animal footprints – so another internet purchase later and our hogs are immortalised in ink! The pads contain harmless black ink which the animals simply walk through then leave footprints on the attached cards. Of course they don’t just walk neatly where you want them to and most of the prints were either smudged or crisscrossed over each other. But I did get at least the couple of clear prints in the photo below. They’re really quite sweet little footprints. You can just about see a few dots which are the tips of their claws in front of the toe pad prints.

hedgehog-footprint

As a final bonus in this mainly hedgehoggy post, a different mammalian video. I tend to leave the trail cam running during the day after a night hog filming (mainly because I don’t have time in the mornings to go out and switch it off). Most of the time I just get clips of grass swaying or pigeons rooting about, but last week I was surprised to find a squirrel! Of course it’s a grey not a red squirrel, but it was still nice to watch.

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