The Long-Eared Hedgehog
Species: hemiechinus auritus
The long-eared hedgehog can be found in deserts, semi deserts and steppes in the south-east of Europe, Central and Southern Asia, Middle East and of northern Africa. It is native to Afghanistan, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mongolia, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. It prefers dry river valleys, woodland and shrubby areas.
As the name suggests, the long-eared hedgehog has bigger ears than other hedgehog species – they can be up to 5 cm long. The length of the hedgehog’s body can range from 12 to 27 cm and the tail measures to further 1.5 – 2 cm. Males weigh around 400 gr, and females – from 200 to 500 g. It has thin short spines (17-19 mm) only on the back. The color of the spines depends on the terrain and varies from straw yellow to black. Albinos occur very rarely. The coat is soft, the color varies from gray-black to dark brown. The snout is oblong. The legs are relatively long.
It is a nocturnal solitary species. At daytime they stay in a shelter (a hole). It can make various sounds: a snuffle, a cat-like hiss and a growl when threatened.
Like all hedgehogs, at the sight of danger they roll into a tight ball.
The long-eared hedgehog hibernates for a short period of time, about 30 days.
Before buying a hedgehog, you will need to prepare your house for its arrival. First of all, you will need a cage. An ordinary rabbit or guinea pig cage is fine. The minima; bottom area is 70x40 cm. Don’t forget that hedgehogs are good climbers and they can easily escape from a cage that has an opening in the roof. If you use an open-roof cage, the walls have to be slippery. The cage must be well-ventilated. You mustn’t use a cage with wire bottom: it will injure the hedgehog’s feet. The bottom has to be solid. Take care that the space between the wires of the walls is small enough: otherwise small hedgehogs can escape or get their heads stuck.
The food bowl should be wide and heavy, so that the hedgehog cannot turn it over. Small ceramic bowls for rodents are just fine. The bowl shouldn’t exceed 15 cm in diameter and it shouldn’t be higher than 5 cm.
For water you can use a sturdy ceramic bowl or a water bottle with nozzle (a far better solution, since it cannot be knocked over, and the hedgehog cannot throw litter into it).
Your hedgehog will also need a shelter, where it can make a nest. For the nest you can provide your pet with some hay, dried leaves and moss. You can try to put a litter box in the cage, because most hedgehogs eliminate in the same place. Aspen or birch cuttings make the best bedding for your hedgehog. You mustn’t use cedar or pine tree cuttings, they contain essential oils that are poisonous for your hedgehog. Pressed corn cobs can also make good bedding, with the exception of young male hedgehogs. Another good option is paper pellets that are sold as litter for cat trays. Many people use fleece: it is a great absorber and the hedgehog’s claws don’t get stuck in it. It is easily washed and if it is light colored, you will easily notice any changes in your pet’s health. But it is difficult to keep in place, as the hedgehog will try to bury itself in it.
You can try to change the hedgehog’s routine by feeding it at daytime. It is mainly needed for the owner, since otherwise hedgehogs tend to make a lot of noise at night.
You should clean the cage twice a week, and the shelter should be cleaned once every three months – if you clean it too often, the animal will be stressed.
The long-eared hedgehog is an insectivore: its menu in the wild consists of insects, beetles, caterpillars, some worms and snails. It also eats small reptiles, amphibians and plants.
In captivity the hedgehogs can be fed with lean meat, poultry and fish, both cooked and raw. It is highly recommended to mince the meat first and mix it with cereals (rice, buckwheat). Also you can feed hedgehogs with pink mice and of course, insects – mealworm, crickets, cockroaches. The hedgehog’s menu can contain dairy products. You should also add to the hedgehog’s menu vegetables and fruit, though in moderate amounts.
It is highly recommended to make for your hedgehog a special mixture that consists of grated carrots, minced crackers and egg powder. Then you have to add to the mixture some cricket powder (available in pet stores). Such a mix contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals for the hedgehog.
An interesting feature of hedgehogs is that they love fresh juices of any sorts of fruit.
The hedgehogs are quite independent, solitary animals that enjoy exploring and foraging. They can be fun to watch. Sometimes they don’t develop affection for its owner. Hedgehogs can scratch quite painfully.
The hedgehogs are normally hardy animals that rarely get ill. Adult hedgehogs may be vulnerable to the growth of tumors, fatty liver diseases and wobbly hedgehog syndrome. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is one of the most serious illnesses diseases found in hedgehogs. Unfortunately, much is still unknown about this relatively rare disease, it is believed to be a genetic disorder. The symptoms start with wobbly motion, typically starting with the hind legs. The hedgehog will then lose the ability to use its hind legs. From there the hedgehog might also lose function in the front limbs as the disease progresses until they no longer have any control of their motor functions.
Since the long-eared hedgehog is naturally parasite prone and can carry diseases, it is highly recommended that it should be purchased from a respected dealer. Wild hedgehogs can carry the brown dog tick, which can transmit Boutonneuse fever.
Average lifespan is 4-6 years.