Animal and nature lovers go to great lengths to make their garden palatable to hedgehogs. Efforts range from putting up little treats to building hedgehog houses. Since nocturnal hedgehogs rarely appear during the day, unmistakable evidence such as faeces should be used to prove their presence. At this point the question arises: What does hedgehog droppings look like? Find out here how to recognize the legacies of hedgehogs with distinguishing features from rats, martens and other animal guests.

characteristic shape

The hedgehog family includes a total of 24 species whose occurrence is limited to Europe, Africa and some regions in Asia. In our latitudes, the brown-breasted hedgehog and the white-breasted hedgehog are primarily native, with their typical spiked coat and a dark or light chest. Adult hedgehogs are 22 to 30 cm long with a 2 cm short tail. Their digestive system has a simple structure and is remarkably short compared to their body length.

As insectivores, the processing of the food for a hedgehog requires significantly less effort than for herbivores. Therefore, the small mammal gets by with a short, straight gastrointestinal tract. The round, sac-shaped stomach opens into a short small intestine, which merges almost seamlessly into a tubular large intestine. While the small intestine still has bulges, these villi are absent in the large intestine. From this follows the characteristic form of hedgehog droppings:

  • Age-dependent length from 2 to 5 cm
  • Firm and pencil-thick
  • Usually tapering at the end

Compared to other mammals, the entire digestive process in hedgehogs is completed within 8 to a maximum of 20 hours. Due to this short processing time, indigestible components quickly pass through the digestive tract and often cause unmistakable indentations in the faeces of adult hedgehogs. These indentations are usually missing in young hedgehogs that are still being suckled by their mother.

Tip: Fresh hedgehog droppings after the onset of winter indicate an animal in need of help. It is often the case that hedgehogs are old, weak or born too late and need food. In this exceptional case, supplementary feeding is desirable. If the animals can still feed on a fat reserve, with a little luck they will still withdraw into their vital hibernation.

Food determines the coloring

Although hedgehogs belong to the order of insectivores from a botanical point of view, their food spectrum is very diverse. Because of this, the color of hedgehog droppings varies depending on the season or local supply. Hedgehogs eat insects of all kinds, such as beetles, centipedes, caterpillars; rare nudibranchs and shell snails. Nestling mice or moles are also on the menu because the adult animals are too fast for a hedgehog. Wherever the opportunity presents itself, a hedgehog devours bird eggs and does not disdain the hatched chicks. In autumn all kinds of fallen fruit are eaten. Experts disagree as to whether hedgehogs are primarily after the huge amounts of insects in this case and less on the healthy vitamins.

Although the rolled, pointed shape of hedgehog droppings varies only in size, the coloring thus ranges from black and dark brown to light brown and creamy yellow. If the color tends to be greenish or if hedgehog excrement has a soft to liquid consistency, the animal is sick and should be taken to the vet or to a hedgehog ward.

Tip: The opinion persists that milk is the ideal food for hedgehogs. In fact, the animals are lactose intolerant. The milk is drunk, but cannot be broken down in the body. In the worst case, the consumption ends fatally for the hedgehog. Better suited for supplementary feeding is non-perishable dry dog ​​food next to a bowl of fresh water.

Hedgehog droppings have a strong odor

The sniff test also helps to identify hedgehog droppings. The excrement of a healthy hedgehog emits an intense but not unpleasant smell. This depends on the previously consumed food. If mainly insects were on the menu, the excrement exudes a milder smell. If a hedgehog is active as a nest robber or helps itself to dog or cat food, the human nose perceives a stronger scent.

Areal distribution instead of clustering

In addition to shape, consistency, color and smell, the distribution of excrement gives a clue to identifying hedgehog droppings. A hedgehog defecates while continuing to move. Therefore, his solutions are always distributed over an area and do not form heaps. This indicator is not a unique selling point. In combination with the characteristics mentioned here, the arrangement can provide the final, decisive proof.

Differences to other animals of the garden

In a natural garden there is a lively coming and going of all kinds of small animals. Where the gardener dispenses with the use of chemical pesticides, creates a varied planting plan and creates space for retreats with the help of hedges, piles of leaves and brushwood, invited and uninvited guests cavort day and night. In order to distinguish their excrement from hedgehog droppings, the following overview lists typical distinguishing features:

  • Marten: 8 to 10 cm long, 1 to 2 cm thick, twisted tip, often interspersed with hair
  • Rats: spindle-shaped, in clusters (travelling rat) banana-shaped, narrow, 1 to 2 cm long (house rat)
  • Fox: 3 to 8 cm long, thick as a thumb, tapering to a point, mostly interspersed with food remains

Cats don’t leave their excrement lying around, but always bury it carefully. Raccoons and badgers do not bury their droppings, but deposit them in a latrine they dug themselves.

The presence of a shy, twilight and nocturnal hedgehog in the garden can usually only be recognized by its droppings. Since there is no unique selling point for hedgehog droppings, it depends on the combination of different, characteristic features. Hedgehog droppings are 2 to 5 cm long, tapering and pencil thick. The color varies from black-brown to light brown or cream, depending on the food ingested, accompanied by a more or less intense smell. Since hedgehogs defecate while walking, their droppings are spread over a large area and do not form heaps. Hedgehogs hibernate from November/December, so that there is no droppings in the garden or on the terrace until February/March. If this is the case, it is a young or old animal that needs help and needs food.

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