I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love most about travelling to a new place, is being surprised and learning new things. It’s extra magical if that new thing is about a plant or animal. It’s unbelievably magical if it’s an animal you encounter at 1 am on your way home from a pub.
In this case, it wasn’t an animal I had never seen before; I had just never seen one in the wild. In fact, I had never even considered they might live “in the wild”, because they are so cute, I assumed they were some sort of human creation.
I spent this past summer working in a rural town in England. One night, on the way home from the pub, my partner and I saw a little creature crossing the road from a park, and heading toward the yard of a house. Naturally, we wanted to see what it was so we ran over to check it out and discovered the cutest little hedgehog!
Of course, I couldn’t contain my excitement and while taking several pictures (that, surprise, did not turn out well) I couldn’t help but giggle hysterically at this wonderful wildlife find. It was probably the joyous noises that made an older gentleman walking by ask “what’d you find there?”. He then told us a terrible tale about how he used to see these little munchkins everywhere, but their numbers had really declined so he hadn’t seen one in years.
While I wasn’t surprised to hear this, since many animals are being pushed closer towards extinction, I generally don’t like to take what a stranger tells me at 1 am for scientific fact. Obviously, after this encounter I became obsessed with learning more about hedgehogs, and I found out that this man’s inclination that their populations were declining was a good one.
Apparently, loss of habitat is a big reason for the declines of hedgehogs seen in England. Another major factor, and one I saw a couple times last summer, is road mortality. Like some of my favourite animals in Ontario (e.g. grey rat snakes) hedgehogs are often killed by cars. After seeing the twisting English countryside roads lined with hedges, it’s even easier to believe that road mortality is high.
While I am really sad to hear that hedgehog populations aren’t doing well, I am so happy I stumbled across one in the wild and I can’t wait for the next time nature surprises me!
P.S. here’s some recommended watching if you need more hedgehog stories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW0jvJC2rvM
Written by Jackie Hamilton