The Hedgehog (sometimes called a Hedge pig) is a small common animal widespread throughout the UK and Europe. As a family of animals they appeared about 50 million years ago and have changed little in that time. It is a common visitor to people’s gardens but does inhabit woodlands with its favourite habitat being the edges of forests, woods and parks. They are a nocturnal animal, normally active in early evening and night and normally sleeping between five in the morning and eight at night, they can also hibernate during winter. Apart from when they have young they are solitary creatures and live between six to ten years. Litters of Hoglets can be born twice a year and are cared for by the mother for about 2 months before having to fend for themselves; only 10% survive the first year.
They are carnivores but will eat fruit when desperate, normally eating worms, insects, bees, small snakes and slow worms, and mice. In Autumn as they prepare to hibernate they can eat up to 200gs of food a night and need to weight at least 500 grams to survive winter although a big well fed adult can weight up to 2.5kg. They have a very good sense of smell and eyesight and hearing are average. They can travel up to 3km a night and can move fairly quickly and they are also good swimmers. Foxes, badgers, crows and dogs prey upon them. They are fairly resistant to poisons and a dose that would kill a human will rarely kill a hedgehog. Many people encourage them into their gardens as they can become fairly tame and eat a lot of garden pests, recommended foods are cat and dog food (wet or dry) apples, eggs, yellow cheese, dinner scraps (not vegetables), giving them milk, bread, and biscuits can be harmful to them and they often need fresh water to drink. In the UK Perky Pet foods actually make Hedgehog food called spikes dinner.
Trapping and eatingIt is unfortunate that the Hedgehog's defense mechanism of rolling into a spiky ball also makes them very easy to catch once found. Hedgehogs are also very loud eaters! So a small amount of the right bait in an area they are likely to inhabit normally works fairly well. Hedgehogs have been traditionally eaten by Romany Gypsies and have a very distinctive gamey flavour. As a carnivore their meat is not generally very pleasant and they do tend to have a large flea population on them. The traditional way of cooking your hedgehog is to take the freshly killed animal and roll in wet clay or mud until all the spines are well coated, creating a muddy ball, then bake in a hot fire much like a jacket potato. When done the clay will break off and take with it the hair and spikes (and any fleas). A fairly easy meal to catch, but as I said before the taste of the meat is hardly to be recommended.