Monday, 18 May 2009

Observations and thoughts on hedgehog behaviour

Last night I was going to put the infrared motion-sensor camera out, but the battery needed charging and I'd left it too late to do anything about it. I decided to take my regular digital camera and sit very quietly in the garden while it was getting dark and wait for the hedgehogs to appear.

The first hedgehog (pictured above) put in an appearance after I'd been waiting for say 20 minutes. It didn't seem to notice me, but it did go to the further away one of two food bowls that I'd put out that night. I think perhaps it realised I was there but so long as I wasn't going to make any sudden moves it was prepared to tolerate my being there. It certainly didn't seem bothered at all by the camera flash when I took a few photos.

A second (and possibly a third) made tentative appearances but ran away and hid having spotted me.

Eventually, the second hedgehog decided it wanted to join in the feeding and approached the first hedgehog at the furthermost feeding bowl (pictured above). Hedgehog number one (at the bottom of these pictures) started backing away all the while making the familiar snuffling sound.

As hedgehog #1 was backing away (towards me, as it happened) I suddenly realised I could smell something and saw that the hog had done a poo. Now, I don't think it did this out of fear. I got the impression that this was more of a parting shot, a way of saying, "Up yours, buddy!"

Hog #1 then turned around and ran onto the grass and into the hedge to my right, giving a couple of disgruntled-sounding snorts as it exited.

Here above we see hog #2 at the foodbowl. Note that all the mealworms have been eaten already and it's mainly just the peanuts that are left. It seems daft that these two hogs were falling out over one food bowl when I'd put two bowls of food out, but perhaps the other bowl was too close to where I was sitting for comfort.

Hog #1 came back out of the hedge after a few minutes and found some mealworms I had scattered on the grass and began tucking in, eating very noisily as hedgehogs do.

I think hedgehog #2 realised that #1 had better pickings, and suddenly ran towards #1 and violently butted into it (in the same manner as we have already seen in Saturday night's hog videos). At this point I went over to get some close-up photos which caused both hogs to curl up into balls. (At least it stopped the violent behaviour).

I had previously thought that the hedgehog snuffling noise was made when hogs are mating, or as a prelude to mating, and maybe this is true, but it also seems that a hedgehog will make a snuffling noise to ward off an aggressor. For a while I had thought that the aggressor was the one making the noise, but this does not seem to be the case.

I haven't quite worked out the aggressive behaviour. In these recent instances it seems to be about food and not wanting to share it with another, but there have been plenty of instances in the past when I have seen two or three hedgehogs all eating from the same bowl in apparent harmony.

Perhaps it is a gender thing, two males for example with one being the dominant male, but this would imply that hedgehogs were animals living in social groups or packs, and from what I've read about them they are solitary living creatures.

I think there is a lot more to hedgehogs than meets the eye. They certainly aren't the placid easy-going creatures that most people think they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment