The Daurian hedgehog is a small and rare hedgehog that was almost wiped off the planet entirely.
Primarily found in Russia, it was a victim of the overuse of pesticides. Now the species is appearing to bounce back, leaving us all with many questions about the elusive Daurian hedgehog.
Hedgehogs can be a surprisingly hard to find species for something that’s essentially a ball of spikes. The Daurian is perhaps one of the most elusive of them all. Still, there’s something about their sweet faces that compels you to learn more.
In this guide, we hope to tell you everything you need to know about the Daurian hedgehog – and everything we don’t know yet! Hopefully, in the years to come, the population of the Daurian will only continue to grow, giving us lots of opportunities to learn.
What is the Daurian hedgehog?
We all know what the typical hedgehog is. Small, covered in spikes, and completely adorable, the hedgehog is a popular creature – even if it isn’t very pet friendly.
The Daurian hedgehog is very much similar to this traditional image. A compact body with a back full of spines, it curls up when threatened, and likes to hunt in the undergrowth for grubs and insects.
This hedgehog is found in Russia and Mongolia, most commonly in the Dauria region, but can also be found in northern China.
Although this guide aims to tell you everything there is to know about the Daurian hedgehog, we sadly just don’t know that much. They suffered from a massive decline in numbers in the 1960s, when commonly used pesticides poisoned worms and mice.
The hedgehogs would then eat these dead creatures, not realizing that they were ingesting poison. This particularly affected the number of Daurian hedgehogs in Russia.
Since then, numbers are steadily increasing, but it’s important to stay aware of how pesticides can damage hedgehogs. We can only arm ourselves with knowledge, and hope it’s enough to keep this fascinating creature safe for quite a while longer.
What does the Daurian hedgehog look like?
From a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Daurian hedgehog is a ball of spikes with legs.
As with other hedgehog species, these spikes, or spines, are the most distinctive physical attribute. Apart from being painful to grab, the spines are covered in grooves, to help with burrowing.
Once you’ve got past the spikes, you’ll discover that the Daurian hedgehog has a sweet face, with a long nose used for sniffing out insects. It’s generally shades of brown all over, with lighter fur across the belly.
The Daurian hedgehog is a very small creature, reaching a weight of only 1.3 pounds on average, although some are as big as 2.2 pounds.
They’re anywhere from 6 to 8 inches in length. There’s very little to differentiate between the male and female Daurian hedgehogs, although the men are slightly larger.
There is one feature that really does set the Daurian hedgehog apart: their surprisingly long ears! These prominent triangular ears stick out from the head, and are covered with the same brown fur as the face.
While all species of hedgehogs have some form of ears, they aren’t always as prominent as the one’s on the Daurian. This has led to them acquiring the nickname “long eared hedgehog”.
These longer ears aren’t just for decoration, they help the Daurian find its food, and avoid any predators. Daurian hedgehogs, like all hedgehogs, have poor eyesight, so they rely on other senses when hunting for dinner.
Their nose is incredibly useful at sniffing out something to eat, but these larger ears help them to detect movement. Hedgehogs find their food at night, and being able to hear what’s around them helps to hone their hunting skills.
However, it’s important not to get confused, because there’s another species out there also known as the “long eared hedgehog”. These hedgehogs have big, quite bat-like ears that are very prominent.
There is some similarity in appearance, leading both hobbyists and biologists to get them confused from time to time. The easiest way to tell them apart is via the size: the long eared hedgehog is smaller than the Daurian hedgehog, with even bigger ears.
Where is the Daurian hedgehog from?
The Daurian hedgehog is often found in the Transbaikal area of Russia, Mongolia, and parts of north China.
Transbaikal refers to the area beyond Lake Baikal, otherwise known as Dauria, which is how the hedgehog got its name. The Dauria region is home to several unique species, which are also named after the area.
The Daurian hedgehog lives alongside such similarly named creatures as the Daurian Jackdaw, Daurian partridge, Daurian redstart, Daurian starling, and the Daurian shrike!
Within its larger habitat, the Daurian hedgehog seeks out forest, grassland, plains, and scrub lands to live in.
They enjoy rocky environments, potentially because it provides them with extra coverage. This can help them hide from larger predators. They prefer to live near water.
Nowadays, the Daurian hedgehog seems to be moving closer to cities and populations.
This is thought to be for two main reasons: the abundance of food, and less threat from agriculture. Although the Daurian still has dangers to be aware of, hopefully this will give us an opportunity to learn more about them.
Habitat of the Daurian hedgehog
The Daurian hedgehog has been shown to be quite choosy with its habitat selection.
As well as enjoying the use of rocky coverage, they’ve been shown to seek out apricot trees. It’s thought this behavior occurs due to the higher levels of insects in this area.
Level terrain and the presence of shrubs is also thought to be a key choice when the Daurian hedgehog is seeking out a habitat. The Daurian hedgehog is thought to have a large ranging habitat. This allows them to cover lots of areas when hunting for food, and looking for a place to sleep.
Like other species of hedgehog, the Daurian burrows underground to create a nest. They may have several small burrows in an area, for different purposes, and quick hiding.
These are easy to dig, thanks to the soft grounds and grasses of the area they live in, but the Daurian hedgehog also utilizes burrows they come across.
When under attack, or even just finding a place to sleep, the Daurian hedgehog will happily use another hedgehog’s burrow, or even that of another mammal.
What does the Daurian hedgehog eat?
The Daurian hedgehog has a fairly simple diet, and mostly enjoys eating insects. Their diet primarily consists of insects and beetles, which they find thanks to their sensitive noses and good hearing.
However, they aren’t very fussy eaters. Daurian hedgehogs have been shown to enjoy eating birds, rodents, and reptiles. They also eat carrion, including dead insects.
Unfortunately, this was part of the cause for their decline in numbers. The insects would be killed by pesticides, which unsuspecting hedgehogs would then digest.
As nocturnal creatures, they prefer to do most of their hunting at night. When they’re done, they may simply find the nearest free den, and settle down for the day.
Daurian hedgehogs are willing to go far to get a meal. With a hunting territory of over 1.2 miles, they travel further than similar types of hedgehogs. This is particularly impressive when you remember just how small their legs are.
For a Daurian hedgehog to travel that far, it requires a lot of exercise.
They aren’t territorial of their huge hunting range. A Daurian hedgehog is happy to share hunting grounds with other hedgehogs, even if they are sharing a food source.
Life of the Daurian hedgehog
Daurian hedgehogs are solitary creatures, who spend most of their days and nights by themselves.
Small and nocturnal, they’ve managed to stay fairly elusive. However, interest in them is growing, and studies are slowly being conducted to find out whatever we can.
Even if the Daurian hedgehog spends most of its life alone, they will occasionally come together to mate.
Once they’ve emerged from their hibernation and the days start to warm, the hedgehogs will begin to look for someone suitable.
This generally occurs around June/July. After breeding has been successful, the hedgehogs will part ways once again. The male isn’t involved past impregnation.
Not much is known about the gestation period, including how long it lasts for. Eventually, the female will give birth to a litter of roughly 3 to 7 baby hedgehogs, otherwise known as hoglets.
These creatures are very vulnerable due to their tiny size. The mother will wean them for two months, teaching them basic survival skills. After this period, the hoglets will begin to hunt for food themselves, and eventually separate from the mother.
Winters can be harsh in Transbaikal Mongolia, so it’s no surprise that the Daurian hedgehog chooses to hibernate. Before this happens, they’ll begin to eat more, so they can survive the long, cold months.
Burrows for hibernation tend to be deeper than the day burrows. Again, not much is known about the Daurian hedgehog’s specific hibernation choices. They start the process at the start of winter, and generally won’t emerge until the following April.
Why do we know so little about the Daurian hedgehog?
There are a few different reasons why there are so many gaps in our knowledge of Daurian hedgehogs, although people are working hard to fill them.
It’s much easier to study an animal when there’s an abundance of them, and there’s just not that many Daurian hedgehogs. The population suffered massive setbacks in the 1960s, and it’s never fully recovered.
While this makes it all the more important to learn about them, it also makes it harder.
Preferring open grass and shrub lands, as well as the rocky plains of Mongolia, Daurian hedgehogs don’t spend much time around settled human beings. Because of this, there’s less general observation.
It’s easier to learn about a species like the European hedgehog, as it can be seen commonly.
Researching into the Daurian hedgehog requires specific effort – you can’t just look out your window and find out what’s going on. Especially as they run underground when they perceive danger!
Add their small size and relatively good camouflage to this, and you can begin to understand why it’s difficult to find out what the Daurian hedgehog might be up to.
Similarity to other species
Some people may be surprised at the number of different hedgehog species there are, especially as so many of them look fairly similar. The Daurian hedgehog closely resembles the long eared hedgehog, which also likes to live in Mongolia.
Early research did occasionally confuse the two, and it’s only recently that the distinctions have been clearly noted.
However, it does mean that some research into the Daurian has been muddled with the long eared hedgehog, leading to some erroneous conclusions.
Potential threats to the Daurian Hedgehog
It’s a hard life for any type of wild animal, and the same is true of the Daurian hedgehog. They have to be aware of predators, pesticides, and the ever encroaching human threat.
As mentioned, the Daurian hedgehog suffered a serious decline in the 1960s. This was because of the dangerous pesticides being used to protect crops. Insects would fall victim to the pesticides, and die in large numbers.
The Daurian hedgehog, a known carrion eater, would never turn its nose up at such an easy meal. Instead, they tucked into the poisoned insects, ingesting the poison themselves.
Since pesticides caused a decline in hedgehog numbers almost across the globe, there has been a serious effort to introduce safety measures to the use of pesticides.
The number of Daurian hedgehogs has since grown, although it still hasn’t fully recovered. Mongolia has outlawed the use of many dangerous chemicals, although pesticides remain a problem on a worldwide scale.
There are more than a few predators who would be happy to make a meal of a Daurian hedgehog. The eagle owl is a known predator, but hedgehogs also need to be on the look-out for wolves, foxes, polecats, and the Eurasian badger.
It’s impossible not to consider the threat that humans are towards hedgehogs.
After all, it was humans that sprayed the pesticides that caused the problems. Humans moving into the Daurian hedgehog territory is a major concern, and some parts of the habitat have been taken over for agriculture.
Building works can destroy either the homes of the Daurian hedgehog, or affect the food source. As Daurian hedgehogs move closer to human settlements, pets could potentially become predators, as has been observed elsewhere.
Is the Daurian hedgehog at risk?
Technically, no, but it’s a bit of a tricky question. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as of “least concern”. However, the Red book of Russian Federation, which documents rare and threatened species in Russia, lists the Daurian hedgehog as a “protected species” with an unclear status.
Due to low numbers, it’s thought to be endangered in Russia.
If the territory of the Daurian hedgehog were to be destroyed, the species would not survive. Even if they aren’t of a high concern currently, it’s important to keep it that way.
How does the Daurian hedgehog defend itself?
It isn’t difficult to guess how the Daurian hedgehog defends itself: it’s literally a ball of spikes. When the animal feels threatened, it can simply curl itself, and become an almost impenetrable shell.
This isn’t the only line of defense, and it won’t always work against predators such as owls.
In these situations, the Daurian hedgehog will quickly retreat underground, looking for the nearest burrow it can find.
There is no defense against pesticides, and little defense against human development.
What is the lifespan of the Daurian hedgehog?
The Daurian hedgehog are small creatures, and they don’t have a particularly long lifespan. Without attacks from outside forces, a Daurian hedgehog can be expected to live for about 6 years.
Can I buy a Daurian hedgehog?
While you may be able to find a Daurian hedgehog for sale, they aren’t wonderfully well suited for being pets.
They enjoy spending time by themselves, and spend most of the day asleep. As a protected species, they aren’t commonly traded as pets.
Be aware, that due to their resemblance to other hedgehog species, you may not be getting an actual Daurian hedgehog. If you’re interested in a pet hedgehog, it’s better to look for a species that has been domesticated.
The Daurian hedgehog is a lovely creature with a – hopefully – bright future. Although they have suffered due to human action, with knowledge we can ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
With proper treatment, the Daurian hedgehog should be able to spend many more years roaming the plains of Mongolia, looking for some tasty insects to enjoy.