From now on, the hedgehogs will be rutting.
Yes, the concept is ludicrous. The word rutting is associated with hormonal stags locking antlers and battling across precipitous craggy outcrops overlooking outrageously scenic Scottish lochs and bonnie braes.
Hedgehogs are cute and spiny creatures who have no obvious means of attacking each other and for whom mating might seem precarious and painful.
Nevertheless, from mid-May to the end of June at least, rutting takes place. In hedgehogs, it seems to be mostly about circling and snuffling. The male circles the female, snuffling heavily and the female does a courtly little dance in time with him.
I’m not sure quite how long this goes on but it’s longer than my concentration span, which is roughly 45 minutes before I get cold or seize up as I’m usually crouched stock still in nightie and dressing gown when this stuff happens.
It’s a tremendous privilege, watching wild animals in your own garden and it’s good to know they are not becoming semi-tame, but on the other hand it does involve a lot of hiding and not moving to avoid them seeing you and trotting off into the bushes.
Fortunately, they don’t mind the security light and often trigger it as they are snacking on dropped bird food or crunching up the sumptuous hedgehog dinner provided for them every evening.
I was locking up the garage door the other night when I came across two hedgehogs on the path quite close.
One was undoubtedly Spiky Norman. He was curled up and gave the appearance of a huge spiky boulder, an immoveable object which another smaller hedgehog, looking very much like his Vale Wildlife hedgehog dating agency partner Tigs, was doing her best to nudge him into some sort of action.
She was enthusiastically trying to get her snout under him and move him. I could have told her there was no chance as he weighs at least one kilo but obviously this would have had little effect. So I watched for a while in case reluctant Norm emerged, then there was a scraping at the back fence, and in came another hedgehog about the size of Tigs.
She trotted right past the hedgehog buffet and entered the action stage right, joining in with the efforts to budge Spiky Norm.
Tigs, however, took strong exception to the interloper and demonstrated it by forcibly shoving her out of the way!
So began a bout of hedgehog sumo, on the path, right in front of me. They were moving so quickly that my phone camera couldn’t successfully capture stills without blurring but I did manage to take a couple of videos.
As you’ll see if I can get them to load, Tigs was by far the most determined little hedgehog, nosing the other competitor off the path and keeping the pressure on. The other hedgehog, realising she was up against strong opposition, adopted the tactic of spreading her four legs out to get a better grip and make it more difficult for Tigs to shove her out of the way. She resisted with all her might but she just wasn’t strong enough.
Such was the violence of Tigs’ shoving that at one point, she was pushing the other hedgehog almost into my phone as the hedgehog fought in vain to keep her footing. I’ve never seen anything like it. Finally, both of them got so close to me that it was as if they suddenly saw me and thought “Ooops! Human! Scarper!”
The loser trotted back to the fence and disappeared through the hole while Tigs crossed the lawn into the long grass, and Spiky Norm, oblivious to it all, remained boulder-like.
Later that night, I surfaced from sleep to hear extremely loud snufflings from the garden outside. The volume meant it could only have been Spiky Norm suffused with amorous intent.
In the morning, the evidence was plain. At the back of the patch of long grass had been flattened by persistent hedgehog trampling. Not so much a crop circle as a courting circle. There may be hoglets….
I will, of course, keep you posted!
Spiky Norm, Tigs and the unsuccessful interloper…