The four-toed hedgehog is a small mammal with a long snout. The upper part of its body is covered with short, protective spines. Spines are white at the bases and tips and black in the middle. The face and underside of the hedgehog are covered in soft white or brown fur.
A full-grown four-toed hedgehog is between 6 and 11 inches long and weighs 18-25 ounces (510-708 grams).
Four-toed hedgehogs feed primarily on insects in the wild. They also consume small reptiles and amphibians (such as snakes and frogs), eggs, invertebrates such as scorpions, spiders, and insects, and small mammals and birds. A small part of their diet consists of plant material including fruit, seeds, and nuts. The hedgehogs at Cosley Zoo are fed fruits, vegetables, crickets, mealworms, and a processed insectivore (insect-eater) diet for balanced nutrition.
The gestation period for the four-toed is about 35 days. Young hedgehogs (called “hedgehoglets” or “hoglets”) are born in litters containing 2-10 individuals. Hedgehoglets are born with soft white spines. At the time of birth, the young hedgehog’s skin is swollen and filled with fluid, covering the spines so that the mother is not injured during the birthing process. Within a few days, the swelling decreases and new, darker spines begin to grow in. Females can give birth to several litters per year.
Wild four-toed hedgehogs are native to desert and savanna areas in Africa. They are nocturnal animals that sleep in burrows during the day and look for food at night. In the dry season, when the supply of insects is scarce, the hedgehogs enter a dormant state in which their bodies slow down and they live off of stored fat. Four-toed hedgehogs are also popular pets in the United States, although there are some parts of the country where it is illegal to keep them. Pet hedgehogs require a warm environment with adequate room to exercise, a sleeping area where they can feel safe and secure, and a high-protein diet containing a variety of food items.
Four-toed hedgehogs can live 8-10 years in captivity and 2-3 years in the wild.
As insect-eaters, hedgehogs can help to control the pest population. Hedgehogs have historically been used as a food source, although this is uncommon today. Domestic hedgehogs are often kept as pets in homes and classrooms in the United States.