Erinaceomorpha – Hedgehogs

The well-known hedgehogs of Eurasia and Africa and the gymnures or moonrats of SE Asia

Hedgehogs, those endearing small mammals with distinctive spiny coats, occupy a wide range of habitats that span several continents, including Europe, Asia, and Africa, with their presence being notably absent in the Americas, where other small mammals occupy their ecological niches. These habitats are as diverse as woodlands, where the rustling leaves provide cover; grasslands that offer a bounty of insects; arid deserts, where they expertly navigate harsh conditions; urban parks, where they have adapted to coexist with human neighbors; humid forests, rich in biodiversity; and meadows, that wave with the breeze.

These versatile creatures are masters of concealment, often seeking refuge under tree logs heavy with moss or digging burrows that snake beneath the earth—a necessity for survival in the wild. Their diet is equally varied, encompassing an array of small invertebrates that crunch satisfyingly between their teeth, occasional reptiles that add variety, carrion that they stumble upon, succulent fruits that sweeten their palate, and roots that they forage with natural curiosity.

When night drapes the sky, hedgehogs emerge, their nocturnal nature lending them a mysterious aura. Moonrats, their distant relatives, share some of these nocturnal habits but are known to bask in the daylight as well. Seasonal changes coax some species into hibernation—a remarkable adaptation that allows them to conserve energy during the cold winter months when food is scarce.

Despite their ground-dwelling reputation, hedgehogs surprise many with their proficiency in climbing and scaling vegetation with agility, and they are adept swimmers, their dogged paddling allowing them to traverse ponds and streams. Most members of the hedgehog family are solitary wanderers, their paths crossing with others of their kind primarily during the breeding season when the air is charged with the promise of new life.