Hedgehog Creature Feature

posted on 1/10/24

By Naturalist Raina Genaw

African pygmy hedgehogs are native to Africa and are not an Iowa-native species. In Iowa, pet hedgehogs are captive-bred. Our educational hedgehog, Olive, was adopted from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa in 2023.

In the wild, hedgehogs eat a variety of insects, worms, snails, small animals, and carrion (A.K.A. roadkill). In captivity, hedgehogs like Olive are fed a special pelleted diet supplemented with cat food and are occasionally given worms, unseasoned meat, and fruit or vegetables as a treat. Olive has a keen sense of smell that she uses to find food. When she is exploring a new area, you can often hear her loudly sniffing and grunting like a pig to take in all of the new smells. 

Olive running on wheel
Olive runs on her wheel for several hours each night.

African hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active at night. They prefer to live alone, without any other hedgehogs nearby. Educational hedgehog Olive spends most days burrowed underneath her log, sleeping peacefully. At night, she eats, drinks, and plays with her toys. Wild hedgehogs can run up to 6 miles in one night, and Olive imitates this behavior by running on her wheel for several hours each night.

Olive in her spiky ball form
When threatened or stressed, Olive puffs out her spines and hisses.

When threatened, hedgehogs hiss and curl up into a ball, exposing their spiky backs to any potential enemies. Their spikes act like armor, protecting them from attackers. While porcupines also use spikes for defense, they are not closely related to hedgehogs. Close relatives of hedgehogs include moles, shrews, and moonrats.

Olive is currently on display at the Tama County Nature Center located at Otter Creek Lake & Park. Stop in during business hours to say hello!


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