At the EcoTarium
By special appearance: our hedgehogs are program animals, so you will not find them on exhibit, but you may see them during our programs.
The hedgehog is a spiny mammal related to shrews and moles. There are 16 species of hedgehog native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and introduced to New Zealand. They are all nocturnal to some degree, sleeping most of the day and foraging for food at night.
Hedgehogs are covered in sharp spines, which are modified hairs made out of a protein called keratin. Hedgehog spines are not poisonous or barbed and, unlike porcupine quills, they do not come out easily. Hedgehogs do shed their baby quills as youngsters and grow adult quills in place. These spines are used as protection from predators; hedgehogs roll up into a tight ball to protect their head and soft, furry belly.
Hedgehogs mostly eat insects, but also eat eggs, crustaceans, small rodents and birds, and some plants. They have poor vision, so they depend on their hearing and sense of smell when hunting. Hedgehogs were named for their habit of rooting around in hedges for food and their pig-like noses and grunting noises. In addition to these grunts, hedgehogs make a wide variety of noises like squeals, purrs, clicks, snorting, and sneezing.