Animal Magnetism
Hedgehog in the Hedge

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Herisson/hedgehog in the Fourmilab driveway

After a long night tracking down and squashing bugs in Speak Freely, I walked out the Fourmilab building when a glint in the flashlight beam attracted my attention. It was eyeshine from a hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) lurking along the border of the driveway, partially concealed in the cotoneaster hedge which borders it. When startled, hedgehogs freeze rather than flee (which, along with their spines providing inadequate defence against rapidly moving, multi-ton vehicles, explains why they account for a high percentage of roadkill on European highways). So, I had plenty of time to fetch my digital camera and take a number of pictures, the best of which is shown here. I was kind of hoping the hedgehog would move: perhaps I could get a less obscured picture. But no such luck…note that notwithstanding the play-dead act, the hedgehog was keeping an eye on the crazy ape with the flash-flash box: the reflection from the eye shows it was open.

After taking several pictures, I went back inside to download them to the computer. When I was done, about ten minutes later, the hedgehog had moved on.

This photo was taken by John Walker in July 2002 outside Fourmilab with an Olympus C-3040 digital camera with flash in automatic exposure mode.

Five years thereafter, as I set out on my daily walk on Moon Day afternoon, July 20th, 2007, it was one of those mid-summer “dark days” where the cumulonimbus clouds which form over the Jura become so tall and dense that, even with the Sun high in the sky, the ambient light resembles dusk. So dark was it that a hedgehog, usually a nocturnal animal, which I had never before observed (apart from roadkill) in daylight, had moseyed out of its den and was sitting on the paving stone border of the road along which I was walking.

Herisson/hedgehog in the daytime by the side of a road near Fourmilab

I stopped and took a number of pictures, the best of which is shown here. The hedgehog paid little attention to me, except when I crouched down to take a close-up of its head, whereupon it started to roll up into a ball. I backed off, and the hedgehog resumed this nonchalant pose. Dark days aren't the best time for a randonnée—not long after this picture was taken, I was caught in a hailstorm. But what are a few dents in the noggin next to spotting a hedgehog in the (dim) daylight?

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by John Walker
July 10th, 2003
Revised December 31st, 2007
This document is in the public domain.