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If you see a hedgehog, don’t feed it quite yet!

Finland’s unseasonably warm weather has encouraged the country’s hedgehogs to crawl out of their winter dens early this year. If you should happen to see one of these cute spiny critters out and about, don’t be too eager to feed it! They are likely just out for a breath of fresh air, testing to see if spring really has sprung.  

Siili juo vettä lapiosta.
Hedgehogs normally feed on insects, snails, frogs and toads, snakes, bird eggs, carrion, mushrooms, grass roots, berries, melons and watermelons. Image: Seppo Sarkkinen / Yle

Kokkola resident Minna Rintala is a devoted friend of the hedgehogs, having helped several individuals in need for some 20 years. After such a long period, their ways have become very familiar to her. Rintala says meeting a hedgehog waddling down the street in March is hardly unusual.

“It’s not odd to see them out this early. It’s been a mild winter and spring so it must get hot in their dens. When the temperature gets too high to bear, the hedgehogs come out to see what it happening so they don’t sleep through the fun. For males, it is particularly important to get a jump on spring, so they can start hunting for females,” says Rintala.

Mr Hedgehog is probably just fine

“They shouldn’t need food yet; it’s too early. Normally they don’t begin to eat until early April, when Mother Nature provides her own bounty,” says Rintala.

Hedgehogs aren’t known to stay exclusively in their dens anyway. During their hibernation period, they wake once every seven days or so to relieve themselves outside. At the same time, they check things out and maybe have a look around, before returning to their den.

The one thing Rintala is worried about is people cleaning up their yards ahead of schedule this year. Cleaning up a pile of wood or leaves may prematurely rob a hedgehog of its safe winter haven. Easter bonfires are still a tradition in Ostrobothnia, and people gathering material for the fire could mean catastrophe for the hedgehogs.

“The building of a hedgehog den is a long deliberate process. If a hedgehog has lost its den, it could seek a new one under an old Easter or Midsummer bonfire location. It would be better if bonfires were always built right on top of the snow, instead of over last year’s remains, as chances are that some kind of wild animal has made a nest in there,” says Rintala.

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