Mittwoch, 24. Oktober 2012

Excursus: Erinaceus europaeus L.

Today's Article isn't about a plant but about an animal. This species is Erinaceus europaeus L.. In Germany, this animal is known as “Braunbrustigel” and in English as “European Hedgehog”. It belongs to the Erinacaeideae (Hedgehogs).

E. europaeus - the animal is tens and erects its bristles,
ready to roll up

The European Hedgehog can reach a maximum length between 20 and 30 centimetres. The most distinctive feature are the long, spiky bristles, which are used by the hedgehog for self-defence. In danger, the Hedgehog curls up and forms a stinging ball with its bristles. These bristles are normally brown, but there are also blonde variants.

It is a loner, but has no strong territorial behaviour, so territories of individual animals can overlap. Each territorial includes an area of nearly 100 hectare. In this area, the hedgehog builds some small nests, which are used for resting. In between, it wanders through its territory in search of food. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and eat insects, snails and worms.

E. europaeus (circle) - the animal feels unobserved, the bristles
are applied while it wanders thorugh undergrowth 

Natural enemies of E. europaeus are the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos; “Steindadler” in German), the Eurasian Eagle-owl (Bubo bubo; Uhu in German) and the badger (Meles meles = Dachs). The badger is strong enough to open a curled up hedgehog and while the Eagle-Owl and the Golden Eagle can kill even a protected hedgehog with its claws. Because of this, you can find remains of hedgehogs (like spikes and skin) near the location of nests of B. bubo (e. g. quarries) *). Other enemies are foxes and weasels.

E. europaeus - even after a few minutes, the tense animal
remains motionless and observes possible dangers

Mating time is between April and May; gestation lasts 35 days. Litter size is normally ten youngs. The hedgehog holds hibernation, which lasts from October to April.

The species is native to Europe .Its natural habitat are fields which are punctuated by small forests, hedges and wild grasses. However, these habitats have become very rare in Europe, and so it can also be found in gardens, parks or the outskirts.

*) Thanks to Christopher Schwerdt for this supplement 

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