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November 02, 2008

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Charlie Stross

Two points:

1. Watch out for fleas. Seriously.

2. They're voracious -- they need to eat some huge chunk of their body weight in bugs every day! If you want it to stick around, consider leaving a saucer of milk out near that tree.

James Bodi

Neat. This reminds me of the time we had to evacuate a porcupine off of a friend's island (his moron terrier kept getting quills in its muzzle). The operation involved herding the porcupine to a rocky outcrop from which a plank led to an empty canoe. Once porky had made his way along the plank to the canoe, my friend more or less pushed the canoe to the mainland with a motor boat and the porcupine jumped off. I still can't believe it worked.

Andrew Gray

A friend found a tiny hedgehog in the middle of the road here, two days ago; scooped it up and carefully carried it onto the pavement before a car came along. I'm still surprised by how happily they take to handling.

Jussi Jalonen

Okay, inaccurate and potentially harmful information is being spread here. Time to intervene.

... Douglas, don't listen to Charlie's advice on milk. I repeat, seriously: don't give the hedgehog any milk, ever.

Yes, they like milk, and they consume it quite voraciously - much like, as noted, they consume anything else. The problem is that hedgehogs don't realize that milk is _bad_ for them. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, and don't have the necessary enzyme for digesting milk. As a result, they get diarrhea.

So, no milk outside. Baby hedgehogs are nursed by their mothers, and adults drink water. Saucer of clear tap water is OK; and of course you can also serve non-lactose products, such as fresh yogurt or sour milk.

Fruits and dog- or cat food are also OK, although hedgehogs tend to have their own individual tastes in these matters. Some biologists recommend adding fine-ground walnuts - _very_ fine-ground, that is - which should be a good source of energy for a hedgehog, especially in the autumn when it's preparing for hibernation.

Do not give it fresh fish; the component thiaminase enzyme destroys B1-vitamin, which is quite essential for hedgehog. I'll add a proviso that German fish products may be different from what we eat up here in Finland; cold-water fishes contain more of the said enzyme. Still, it's best to err on the side of caution, so boiling it is still perhaps the best thing to do.

As you have already noticed, worms, mice and other such stuff is also OK - actually, those dead mouse fetuses available for pet snakes would be fine also for a hedgehog.

Of course, at this stage, you don't really have to give it anything; the creature has probably spent the entire summer devouring everything, in order to gain weight for the upcoming hibernation. Given the description that you gave of its sluggish movement, I'd think that this one is already well-fed on its own; not that giving it some more would hurt, of course.

We've had hedgehogs at the garden of our old family house on the West Coast forever; I've regarded their permanent presence as a sign that the surroundings are in a good, natural state.

There was one night just the last May, when I managed to see our currently resident hedgehog couple at a moment of passion. Actually, I _heard_ them in the act before I saw them; they make lots of noise, weird snuffling and even occasional whistles.

And yes, the old joke about how hard it must be to get it on with a partner who has a barrier of sharp spikes on her back seemed to be based on facts.

So, hedgehogs _can_ also be dramatic.

Cheers,

J. J.


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