How Do Hedgehogs Protect Themselves From Predators?

by Ella Miller
When feeling threatened, a hedgehog can make the spines on his body stand up.

When feeling threatened, a hedgehog can make the spines on his body stand up.

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Don't be fooled: the tiny size of a hedgehog doesn't mean he's always a target. Though predators may go near him at first, many will be discouraged when they see his prickly spines shoot up as if to say, "Stay back!" Some may refer to hedgehogs as "walking pincushions" because of this prickly feature.

Quill Protection

Hedgehogs have spines which are known as quills, and they know how to use them. When they feel threatened, their quills immediately go up in full force. The hedgehog has muscles located along his sides that assist in making his spines go up. The quills actually crisscross and interlock with one another. Hedgehogs also sleep with their spines interlocked, which means they are protected while they get a little hedgehog beauty sleep.

Hissing

Hedgehogs can be quite the noisemakers. They don't make any effort to be quiet when rummaging through a forest for small insects to eat. They can often be heard making grunting noises and sometimes nudge their fellow hedgehogs. When a potential attacker comes close to them, they will respond with a loud hissing noise.

Curl Up

After shooting his prickly quills up and making them interlock with one another, the hedgehog has successfully given himself a sharp shield of armor against predators. At this point, he curls his head and feet into his body and forms a ball to protect his soft, delicate underside. After this, the hedgehog literally looks like a prickly ball. This can be off-putting to many predators, as a prickly ball may not look too appealing for dinnertime. For predators that do decide to give the "prickly ball" a try, they will be hard-pressed to open it and may end up giving up.

Predators

Many wild animals target the hedgehog for prey, including jackals and wild dogs. Lions have been known to walk the other way when a hedgehog sticks up his quills. Aside from animal predators, automobiles are a big problem for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs move quite slowly and crossing the road can present many problems. Thousands of hedgehogs are killed each year due to cars and trucks.

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    Author

    Ella Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for more than six years. She has firsthand experience volunteering with animal rescue nonprofit organizations. Miller studies journalism with a minor in animal science at Middle Tennessee State University. She is also a licensed cosmetologist.