Hedgehogs are small animals from the class of mammals. Their main habitat is in Europe, Africa and Asia (southeastern part of Asia mostly), and they were additionally brought to New Zealand in the 19th century. They have a physical appearance that can remind you of rodents or a porcupine, but they are not the same species. However, there is one common feature of these animals- they have prickly spikes that cover their bodies. These spikes are actually a defense system, so the bigger animals can’t pray on them. The mechanism goes like this: when they feel threatened, they curl up into a spiky ball. This makes most of the common predators to avoid hedgehogs since they can end up in pain. So generally, other animals don’t really want to eat a hedgehog, unless they are desperate. Of course, some animals, better than others, developed a technique to catch and feed on hedgehogs whenever they have a chance. We will talk in more detail about the most common ones.
Predators Of Hedgehogs
One of the most common hedgehog predators is an owl. These large birds are nocturnal, just like hedgehogs. This means that they don’t hunt during the day, and spend that time mostly without any activities. On the other hand, hedgehogs are nocturnal animals too, so these two animals cross their paths very often. Some birds, such as Eurasian eagle, have very strong claws and more importantly, they don’t produce sounds when they fly. These two things make them almost perfect predators since they can catch a hedgehog without giving it the time to curl into a ball in the first place. Since hedgehog can’t hear any warning noises, and the eagle can cover its presence in the night, this small spiky animal doesn’t even have a chance to go into a defensive mode before it’s too late.
Foxes are carnivorous mammals that are sometimes considered lazy. This predators of hedgehogs are excellent at hunting but they are mostly opportunistic since they usually eat ‘’ dying wildlife’’. Many foxes live near the urban areas which means that they have plenty of rubbish food. For a fox, this means that it doesn’t have to hunt to be full. That is why, even if they have the skill, a fox will actually rarely attack a hedgehog. More likely, it will just pray on those who don’t have much time left anyway. Foxes are also known to kill chickens and return to store their pray the next day.
Generally speaking, snakes won’t attack a hedgehog unless they attack them for food. Some species run from hedgehogs since the predation goes another way around, but there are still species that can be deadly for them. Adult hedgehogs are mostly safe, but if a younger one encounters a snake, there is not much of a chance that it will survive. The interesting thing is that snake poison doesn’t affect hedgehogs; however, their immunity doesn’t extend to suffocation or swallowing techniques that snakes use.
One of the most famous and the most successful hedgehog predator is a weasel. These animals are not big, just a bit bigger than a hedgehog. Still, in time, they have developed a certain inclination for hedgehogs, especially in New Zealand, where these spiky balls represent the main food source for weasels. They have developed special techniques that allow them to catch a hedgehog and feed on their soft parts while avoiding the pain that can be caused by spikes. So, although there is just a slight difference in size, weasels are one of the most frequent predators of hedgehogs in the world.
These are animals that are one of the rare predators that can actually unroll a hedgehog that has already curled up into a spike ball. Although there is no actual evidence that badgers ‘’exterminate’’ hedgehogs, the main reason why they would be predating on their spiky neighbor is a food source. In general, these two species eat the same food; they mainly eat invertebrates such as beetles. So if a badger and a hedgehog are in the same space for a meal, most likely there will be a food competition. Since hedgehogs can be overpowered by badgers, they rarely go to areas that have badger populations. On the other hand, it is not proven that there will be a declination of hedgehog population if there are a lot of badgers, hedgehog number actively decreases in areas that don’t have badgers at all too. In fact, if there are enough food and a habitat that is convenient for both species, they could probably coexist.
In India, there is an animal known as mongoose that attacks all kinds of uncommon pray. Since it is not unusual for a this predator of hedgehogs to attack even poisonous snakes such as cobra, they developed all sorts of creative tactics to approach pray that has different defense tactics. This pray they are after is frequently an Indian hedgehog. The mongoose’s technique for catching a hedgehog is often compared to ‘’breaking open an egg’’. So they take a hedgehog curled into a ball and use their forearms to throw a curled-up animal at something hard. The goal is to ‘’break’’ them, like a shell. Or another effect of this technique is to cause shock or to hurt pray up to the point where hedgehog has to uncurl. When this happens, mongoose quickly attacks the soft part, feeding on the hedgehog.
Other animals might attack hedgehogs, such as jackals or wild dogs. They have also found a way to uncurl the smaller animal by forcing it to release its defense system. On the other hand, domesticated dogs will rarely attack the hedgehog; some of them are even friendly towards them. The main reason for acting otherwise is, of course, hunger.
Although some would think that people don’t eat hedgehogs, you might be surprised to know that in some cultures believe that magical powers, others roast them and eat them like any other meat. In certain communities, you can even find hedgehog meat selling in the markets.
I hope that this article on predators of hedgehogs was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!