It works like this: we have a back yard, with a terrace a Hungarian fellow made for us out of cobblestones left over from when he made our driveway for us. On the terrace is a tent-like-roof-thing structure with a heavy metal frame (to which we attach buckets of cobblestones left over from our terrace in windstorms). Beneath this we, my wife and I, and sometimes kids or other people, sit at night and drink wine or tea by candlelight and chat.
This is out in the country, sort of. Small town. It gets very dark.
Then my wife says, “Ssh!” and we all freeze. She has heard a hedgehog in the bushes.
We get lots of hedgehogs every year because our yard is set up to attract them. We have lots of bushes for hiding, and a brush pile under the catalpa where they can spend the winter if they don’t like the little houses I built for them a few years ago.
The tortoise house in the flowerbed in front of our house also seems to have hedgehog squatters.
Usually, I have to take my wife’s word for it. Here is a picture of what I usually see, because my eyes are blinded by the candles and like I said it’s pretty dark:
“Look, Mig, fourteen hedgehogs!”
Alpha is the Jane Goodall of hedgehogs. She knows their habits and gives them names derived from their appearance or individual personalities.
She can hear them eating in the bushes, and she can hear them rustling through dry leaves and stuff.
Sometimes I do hear them, too. I heard a couple fighting a few nights ago. They are territorial. They sort of hiss at each other until one gets tired of it and gives up.
Sometimes I actually see them.
Night before last, there were two young ones in our driveway. Our guess was they had been living in the tortoise house with their mother and were exploring. Maybe she had kicked them out, although they were quite small. Maybe something happened to her and they were hungry.
They were nosing around. We put out a dish of hedgehog food (they sell it in cans in petstores here. As I have said before, it looks like catfood with a picture of a hedgehog on the can, but is of course more expensive) and they had an interesting reaction. One (the more adventurous one) made a sound that sounded like delight, and ran to the dish. The other (more cautious one) ran over and shoved him away. We figured this was because young hedgehogs are shown by their mothers what is safe to eat, and maybe she never showed them canned hedgehog food. The adventurous one was willing to try it, but the other one insisted, so they wandered off.
Later I leaned a board onto the driveway near the fence so they had a ramp down into our back yard, which they immediately used. I guess they’ve moved into the back yard as we haven’t seen them in the driveway since then.
Then, last night we saw a large, light-colored one. Our hedgehogs appear to come in two colors, light and dark. Some have dark grey faces, some are nearly white. It doesn’t seem to be an age thing, some young ones are light too.
Gamma estimates we have 300 hedgehogs in our back yard, 302 with the new young ones.
I’ve seen four, and heard another one.