Most people probably don’t think about hedgehogs all that often. They’re reasonably popular as pets, but they don’t end up in the news very often, probably because they’re not exactly breaking news and tend to do pretty well for themselves. Hedgehogs have been around for 15 million years and have survived through all kinds of environments, up to and including urbanization. But despite the fact that they’ve been around for a while, it’s taken a long time for scientists to get around to studying urban hedgehog populations.
Researchers in Germany found that hedgehogs have adapted quite well to urban life. Unlike their rural cousins, urban hedgehogs have smaller ranges, about 5 hectares compared to 50, in which they look for food. They also have different activity habits, with urban hedgehogs sticking largely to private gardens until around midnight (when there are fewer humans and pets around) to forage farther and look for mates.
Urban hedgehogs do still have similar hibernation patterns to their rural cousins, though, despite generally having access to more food during the winter. Parks and gardens are important to hedgehog populations in cities, as they need bushy, more natural spaces in which to hibernate; they don’t do well in manicured parks and the like.
The researchers attached transmitters to hedgehogs living in a variety of city locations, and they also studied specimens at local shelters to see what kinds of dangers city life poses to the creatures. They found that the most common kinds of injuries urban hedgehogs suffered were related to fences, gardening tools, or eating rat poison.
The study shows just how well some animals can adapt to new environments. Humans have been building cities for millennia, and animals have been living in them whether we invite them or not. Even as cities have changed drastically over the last few centuries, creatures with rapid reproduction rates have kept up the whole time.