Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hedgehogs at Sunnyside

Someone has been feeding what I assume are feral cats at the Sunnyside Boat Launch - there's a cat house and feeding station there. The problem with feeding dogs and cats outside is that wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, coyote, opposum, and even bobcat also eat the food. Populations of these species increase to unnaturally high levels and they lose their fear of humans, which increases the risk of bites.

A new threat is the expanding population of hedgehogs coming up the Housatonic River Valley (the photo is one at Sunnyside). Native to England, hedgehogs became pests in New Zealand after they were released to eat garden pests (although they look like a rodent, their diet actually consists mostly of insects, along with bird eggs and anything else they can scavenge - including pet food). Since their release in New Zealand, songbird populations have declined. Now they have appeared along the Housatonic River, where they apparently scavenge the shoreline.

Hedgehogs have quills, but these quills are not barbed and do not release into your skin like a porpupine. So we do not have that to worry about (up north dogs are forever getting a facefull of quills). In fact, hedgehogs are sometimes kept as pets, which may be how they were released into Connecticut.

Hedgehogs are not adapted to harsh winters, so they may not move much to the north, and a cold winter might even wipe out the entire population. Time will tell.


Richard (of the Trails) said...

Good "Gotcha!". I was afraid that the alleged hedgehogs might wipe out the recent influx of jackalopes.

Mike VanValen said...

Haha! I was like "you're kidding? Invasive Hedgehogs?" Nice one.

Tom H. said...

I really was hoping to see a new gotcha this year.

Teresa said...

Oh, Tom, you did. You just don't know it ;-).