A Hedgehog at Dusk

Last summer, we ran in to one of Britain’s indigenous snakes. This evening, we returned from the local park at dusk and waiting at the end of our front garden path, overlooking the drop of the curb, was a hedgehog. This was the first live hedgehog we’d seen since arriving 18 months ago, and the kids were ecstatic. Using a shovel, we airlifted him from the danger of the road (throughout the year, we’d seen pieces of a few less fortunate hedgehogs on the roadside) to the safety of our back garden whereupon it sat for 10 minutes before scurrying off in to the garden shed. A brief argument ensued about what our new found friend should be christened. ‘Annabelle’ was the choice of our younger daughter, after one of her favourite literary characters, while the elder sibling opted, perhaps wisely, for the gender-neutral ‘Hedgie’.

Later, we pulled out the nature books and took the opportunity to learn a little more about hedgehogs.

Hedgehog

Every country has its unique group of wildlife. Although they may have many of the same animals present, the number varies; therefore, you might find animals in the UK that you rarely see in the US and vice versa.

Take for example, the gray squirrel. When I first came to the UK, I was informed that the gray squirrel had practically ran off the red squirrel. That may have been the case years ago, but some people had decided to save the reds and new colonies are appearing. But the most interesting fact is that the black squirrel has suddenly been introduced. Authorities have now discovered that they came from American squirrels who escaped from the zoo (which zoo?). Black squirrels are not very common in the US either, but they are prevalent in certain areas, such as Ohio.

Deer are very common in the US – you usually see them splattered about on the highways; although occasionally, you might be lucky enough to dodge them. We have not seen many dead deer here, but we have had whole families crossing the road almost oblivious to traffic. We also see herds of them grazing off the farmland. We know some farmers don’t appreciate that. I don’t believe they are hunted here as they are in the US.

The animal most likely to be hunted is the pheasant. We came upon a truck full of farmers and hunters, and dead pheasants loaded up on the side. Most likely, they were on their way to the local butchers. The pheasant is an interesting creature. Although it can fly, most often it chooses not to. Rather, it will duck its head forward and race out of your way, almost like a road runner. Pheasants are also most likely to be the road kill over here. That is in contrast to squirrrels, raccoons, deer, cats, dogs etc. in the US.

Another road kill that I have never seen in the US is the badger. They are usually nocturnal creatures, although occasionally, they may venture out during the day. Or, driving at night, you might just pick them up in your headlights.

For me, though, the most interesting animal is the fox. Yes, foxes are common in the US, too, but I have never had any experience of them. Without putting myself in their way, I have learned a few things about the fox that I would not have learned in the US. For example, the fox’s urine stinks almost as bad as a skunk’s deadly spray. We learned this after walking out of my in-law’s garage. My husband and I noticed a skunky smell, but it seemed rather confined. We saw a small yellow puddle nearby and my father-in-law informed us that there were foxes in the area that liked to leave a little of themselves in the neighbourhood. Another distinctive feature is the fox’s bark. The first time I heard it was when we were staying at my in-law’s (in the London area). I thought it was a baby crying until my husband informed me that it was a fox. More recently, I heard a very harsh cry, almost like a crow being mauled. It was eerie and spine-tingling. When I tried to explain it to my mother-in-law, she told me it was the fox’s mating call. Unbelievable. If I heard that call, I’d be likely to run the other way.

Other interesting animals that I have seen briefly and would like to know more about are the different species of waterfowl. Outside Arundel Castle were more-hen and coots. There were others that we have not identified and will probably need to bring some kind of guidebook. More for later then.