Eared hedgehog — insectivorous animal living in deserts, fields, steppes. This species belongs to the same family as ordinary hedgehogs, but in body structure and habits they differ slightly from ordinary hedgehogs. Eared hedgehogs, unlike other representatives of this family, have rather long ears that are slightly bent forward. There are also yellowish spots on the needles of eared hedgehogs. Big-eared hedgehogs are smaller than normal hedgehogs and run faster.
Species origin and description
Hemiechinus auritus eared hedgehog — This is a mammal animal belonging to the order of insectivores, the hedgehog family. There is one species in the genus — eared hedgehog. Hedgehog family — one of the oldest families on our planet. The first representatives of this family inhabited our planet almost 58 million years ago. Fossils of hedgehogs found in North America are 52 million years old. The body size of the ancestor of the hedgehog was only 5 centimeters. Ancient hedgehogs were similar to modern members of this family, but differed slightly in body structure.
Video: Long-eared hedgehog
The species Hemiechinus auritus was first described by the German traveler and naturalist Samuel Georg Gottlieb Gmelin in 1770. Eared hedgehogs differ from ordinary hedgehogs in the size of their ears. If in other representatives of this family the auricles are small, and practically hide between the needles, then in eared hedgehogs, the length of the ears is about 6 cm. The back of the hedgehog is completely covered with sharp needles. because they are much smaller than ordinary hedgehogs. The body length of adult males is from 13 to 26 cm, weight is from 200 to 470 grams. The shape of the muzzle is sharp. A strip of bare skin is visible in the forehead area, it runs down the torso. The hair is soft grey. The color of hedgehogs of this species may be different depending on the habitat of the animal.
Appearance and Features
Eared hedgehogs are small insectivorous animals. The body of an adult hedgehog is from 12 to 26 cm long. The tail size is 16-23 mm, the Pakistani subspecies of animals of this species are larger and 30 cm long. Males weigh up to 450 grams, females can weigh from 220 to 500 grams. The spiny shell of eared hedgehogs is smaller than that of ordinary hedgehogs. On the lower part of the sides, on the muzzle and abdomen there is a soft hairline. On the back and sides there is a hairline with needles pointed at the end.
The needles are short, 17 to 20 mm long, covered with small grooves and ridges. Little hedgehogs are born with very soft and transparent needles, and blind. By the age of 2 weeks, hedgehogs begin to see, learn to curl up into a ball, and their needles become stronger and sharper. Depending on the habitat of the animal, the color of the needles can vary from light straw to black.
The muzzle is pointed. The eyes are small and round. The iris of the eyes is dark in color. The auricles are large up to 5 cm in length, the ears are slightly bent towards the face. Mustaches are even. Strong cheekbones of the animal are strongly highlighted. There are 36 rather sharp teeth in the mouth. The limbs are long and strong. The hedgehog can run fast, and in case of danger it curls up into a ball with its needles up. The life expectancy of hedgehogs in the wild is about 3 years. In captivity, hedgehogs live longer up to 6 years, this is due to better environmental conditions and a calm lifestyle.
Where does the eared hedgehog live?
The habitat of eared hedgehogs is wide and varied. These animals can be found in the steppes, semi-deserts of Libya, Egypt, Israel, Asia Minor, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And they also live in India, the deserts of Kazakhstan and the Mongolian steppes. In China, this species of hedgehogs can only be found in the Xinjiang Uygur region. In our country, eared hedgehogs are found in the steppes of the Volga region and in Novosibirsk. In the Urals, from the extreme south of western Siberia to the Altai Mountains. Sometimes found on the territory of Ukraine.
Hedgehogs settle in places with dry sandy soil and on loam. Choose dry places such as dry valleys, rivers, ravines. They settle in deserts with both tall grass and poor vegetation. He does not like places with burnt grass and tall thickets of dead wood. If necessary, hedgehogs sometimes climb mountains to a height of up to 2400 meters above sea level. For life, the hedgehog digs a deep hole up to one meter in length. Closes the hole from the outside. Sometimes eared hedgehogs occupy abandoned burrows of other animals.
All winter long-eared hedgehogs spend in their hole, by autumn they insulate their home by dragging leaves there, arrange some kind of nest, and for the winter they close the entrance to the hole and flow into dormant until spring. If it lives near settlements, settle near the habitation of a person who is not to be afraid at all.
What does the eared hedgehog eat?
Insectivorous eared hedgehogs animals. The diet of eared hedgehogs includes:
- small beetles;
- mice and rats;
- small birds and their chicks;
- bird eggs.
From plant food, hedgehogs like to eat fruits, berries and seeds of various plants. An eared hedgehog, getting food for itself, is able to run very fast, these hedgehogs move much faster than other members of this family. So it is very difficult for the victim of a hedgehog to hide from the pursuit of this small predator. In addition, eared hedgehogs are very hardy, they can live without food and water for up to 10 weeks while hibernating.
An interesting fact: If a big-eared hedgehog eats a poisonous animal, not only does it not get poisoned, but it also develops a stable immunity to the bites of these animals. For example, if a hedgehog eats a poisonous viper, nothing will happen to him, and in the future he will not be afraid of the bites of these dangerous snakes.
Hedgehogs are considered real orderlies of the forest, they eat harmful insects, rodents that carry various diseases, poisonous snakes and insects. Therefore, if hedgehogs settle near a person’s dwelling, people begin to feed them knowing that if a hedgehog lives in a garden plot, there will be no pests on it, since this small predator will quickly destroy them.
Often people like to keep eared hedgehogs as pets, but sometimes it is difficult to get the food that the hedgehog eats in nature. In captivity, eared hedgehogs are fed with poultry meat, beef, eggs, boiled minced meat, they also give fruits, vegetables, plant seeds.
Now you know how to feed an eared hedgehog. Let's see how the animal survives in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Eared hedgehog is not an aggressive animal with a calm character. Very agile and nimble. In the wild, it is nocturnal. Runs very fast. Hedgehogs do not see well, so these animals hunt mainly by ear. During the night, an eared hedgehog can travel distances of 8-9 km. During the daytime, the hedgehog hides in its shelter and sleeps. For rest, it digs a temporary shelter in the ground under the roots of trees or bushes. In addition to temporary shelters, the eared hedgehog creates a real home for itself. A large and fairly deep hole up to 1.5 meters deep or occupies someone else's home. Such a hole is located on a hillside under the roots of a tree or bushes. At the very end of the hole, a special den is arranged, where during the breeding season, small hedgehogs are born.
Eared hedgehogs love loneliness and do not build families, do not have permanent partners, do not stray into flocks. By autumn, hedgehogs eat heavily, accumulating subcutaneous fat. Hedgehogs hibernate in October-November, awaken from hibernation in early April. In warm climates, eared hedgehogs hibernate only in the absence of food. Hibernation in hedgehogs of this species is not as strong as in other representatives of this family. In winter, he can wake up and eat the supplies that he has prepared for himself for the winter.
These animals treat humans well and are not at all afraid of people. They accept food from a person, feel good in captivity. If you get an eared hedgehog as a pet, he quickly gets used to people, recognizes the owner and listens to him. With other animals, it is not aggressive in case of danger, it starts to hiss warning of its displeasure, jumps on the offender trying to prick him. anything to not do it. When in danger, they angrily hiss and snort at the opponent, try to run away, if this does not work out and the escape routes are closed, these hedgehogs jump on their offender trying to hurt him. The hedgehog curls up into a ball only in case of extreme danger.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season for hedgehogs falls in the spring; during the breeding season, females secrete a special secret with pheromones. Males feel this smell and go to it. When the male approaches the female, he begins to sing his song similar to a whistle. The female also starts to snort and run around her after a while, the female also gets involved in the process of games.
Hedgehogs are very secretive, so the mating process takes place in the thickets of grass. First, the animals sniff each other, later the animals arrange an act of joint urination. After that, the male tries to approach the female from behind. The needles of the female, prickly in ordinary life, become soft at this time, as the blood pressure decreases. In addition, the hedgehog picks up needles by carefully folding them on its back.
After mating, the hedgehog leaves the hedgehog and goes to equip the hole, or deepen and expand the old dwelling. Pregnancy in a female lasts 7 weeks. At one time, a hedgehog is born from 2 to 6 hedgehogs. Little eared hedgehogs are completely blind when they are born. The hedgehog's eyes open only after 2 weeks, the cubs feed on mother's milk. The female stays with her cubs for the first two months, later the hedgehogs are able to leave their father's house. Eared hedgehogs are convinced loners, they do not create families, do not have permanent partners. They treat their relatives calmly, skirmishes can only occur between males during the mating season.
Natural enemies of eared hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are nocturnal for a reason, there are many predators in the daytime, who are not averse to eating this small eared animal.
The main natural enemies of eared hedgehogs are:
- birds of prey;
Eared hedgehogs are very agile. They run fast enough and try to flee in case of danger, which they often succeed in quite successfully. In an extreme situation, they hiss menacingly and try to prick the offender.
Interesting fact: When predators attack a hedgehog and are about to eat it, they cannot do this, because the hedgehog curls up into a tight ball. Enterprising predators have found how to deal with this, they just urinate on the hedgehog, at this time the hedgehog has to turn around and at that moment the predator eats it.
Hedgehogs are resistant to most poisons, they calmly endure the bites of poisonous insects and reptiles. Even many chemical poisons are not dangerous for hedgehogs. Ticks often settle on hedgehogs; in one season, the hedgehog collects and feeds several hundred of these parasites. In addition, hedgehogs are often infected with helminths. Also, hedgehogs are susceptible to fungal diseases; they are often infected with dermophraditic fungi such as Trychophyton mentagrophyte var. Erinacei and Candida albicans. Hedgehogs carry diseases such as salmonellosis, adenoviruses, encephalitis virus, paramyxoviruses.
Population and species status
The eared hedgehog is a rather secretive animal, leading a nocturnal lifestyle, so it is quite difficult to track the size of the eared hedgehog population. Hedgehogs are well-known homebodies and do not leave their holes during the daytime, but hunt only at night. However, this species is considered quite numerous. Currently, the species has a legal status — type of least concern. He does not need any special protection. Hedgehogs multiply rapidly, tolerate negative environmental influences well.
Hedgehogs of this species have become frequently kept as pets in many countries in recent years, so this species is often bred for sale. Hedgehogs of this species are considered wonderful pets, they do not stomp, unlike ordinary hedgehogs, they are unpretentious in food and conditions of detention. They love their owners. True, hedgehogs are not suitable for families with children as pets, as contact with hedgehog thorns can cause allergies in children.
As for the protection of hedgehogs, it is necessary to try to preserve the places where hedgehogs are used to settling. To do this, it is necessary to equip nature reserves, parks, and improve green areas. If hedgehogs have settled near your house, try not to offend them. Feed these animals, and they will rid your site of pests and become true friends.
The eared hedgehog is a particularly important species for agriculture. Hedgehogs destroy harmful insects and rodents carrying various diseases. Neighborhood with hedgehogs is very useful, but even though these animals are very cute, you should not touch and pick up wild hedgehogs, as dangerous ticks and other harmful parasites live on them.