Hedgehogs are cute and cuddly.
Many children are exposed to characters like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, so it was no surprise that when I found a baby hedgehog (called a hoglet) sitting motionless on the sidewalk at 4.30 in the afternoon that I felt moved to help.
This is in New Zealand and many people may not realize that New Zealand was probably one of the last places in the World to be colonized by land mammals. The only native mammals we have in New Zealand are two species of bats and marine mammals like seals and dolphins. So all the rats, mice, stoats, weasels, possums and of course, hedgehogs, have all been introduced in the last couple of hundred years.
Nearly all the land mammals are introduced species and the native wildlife (birds, reptiles and frogs), who have been happily evolving on their own for the last 80 million years in the absence of mammals, haven’t a clue what to do when they encounter an introduced, vicious, mammalian predator.
I ended up in a dilemma – should I nudge the hedgehog into the oncoming traffic, it was cold and going to die anyway, or should I nurse it back to health and when its old enough, release it back into the wild to wreak havoc with our native wildlife or get squashed on the road as an adult!
The decision was a ‘no brainer’, I couldn’t let this little fellow die a horrible death so I had to rear the little 100 gm orphan. So now we have a large female hedgehog – a couple of pounds in weight – a vicious predators of my favorite animals that I have been working so hard to save – frogs! What to do?
Luckily I managed to find someone who was looking for a hedgehog as a pet – so she is now living with a family, never to be released to the wild, never to produce more hedgehogs, never to run the gauntlet of crossing a road but always having her every day needs taken care of.
A win win situation for the hedgehog and for the frogs!
While they might seem cute and cuddly hedgehogs are significant predators of frogs, lizards and even ground nesting birds – and probably play a significant role in the decline of Leiopelma frogs in New Zealand.