9. Stalking Hurcheons

16 June 2020. I awoke around 4 a.m. to see to the admin. The dawn chorus was cranking up in full 5.1. surround sound. Most respectable hedgehogs would normally be safely tucked up in bed but I decided to check the back feeder in case there was a late reveller. The bowl I put the food in is a small stainless steel dish somewhat under 6″ in diameter. While humans may like to get their feet under the table, hedgehogs like to assert themselves by getting their feet in the dish. This makes quite a lot of clattering noise and acts as a useful audio signal that feeding is in progress. The noise seems not to deter hurcheons to any noticeable degree nor did it this morning. On lifting the popin lid it was light enough to see there was a diner – or possibly breakfaster.

The bill of fare had been cat’s biscuits, minced beef and chicken scraps served up about 10 the previous evening. By this time, some six hours later, there was probably nothing left apart from the biscuit which is always last to go. Because the hurcheon had his or her feet in the trough there was little room to deposit the extra rations but I chucked them in anyway assuming that any hog of average intelligence would know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. This one did not ball up but pretended not to be there while I showered it with biscuit and chicken scraps before lowering the lid and retreating a safe distance to observe.

Eating noises soon resumed and continued for a good ten or fifteen minutes before the hedgehog emerged and took a long drink. It then returned to the feeder for ‘afters’ and finally emerged about 4:20 with thoughts of bed. I followed.

In pursuit

I am pretty sure the hedgehog was aware of my presence, but it headed off in a resolute fashion none the less. Given its destination, it took a rather curious route except that it was almost identical to one taken by an animal I followed about this time last year. Whether one and the same creature I have no idea. In the image above, the hurcheon can be seen passing some steps on its left. Some hedgehogs go up and down them easily; others, such as this one, seem to ignore them. During the first week in May this year I made their ascent considerably easier by adding intermediate steps. Without the intermediate steps, only large mature hedgehogs could successfully ascend the rises of 8″. They are now all 4″ rises apart from the bottom step which is split into 3″ and 5″ rises.

This hedgehog, while big enough to manage the steps easily, chose not to, but continued in the same direction shown in the image above before rounding a corner to its left, and ascended some steps which, while shallower than the pre-adjusted steps, are now steeper than the others, with rises of 5½”, 6″, 6½”, and 5½”. Both flights of steps land on the upper level of garden. In other words, the hedgehog missed a short-cut with a less arduous ascent. Its destination then lay due west, but in stead of going direct it made a small diversion to go under a shed, not in its direct path, only to emerge the other side of the shed and then continue westward – a quirk identical to one displayed by the animal I followed last year. It spent no time under the shed.

Hedgehog Route
Hedgehog Route

I took care to remain about a dozen paces behind the hog which now rounded a bush that concealed its retreating prickly posteriors. I sped forward to maintain visual contact. Rounding the same bush, there it was – gone. A few minutes later I heard it rustling about in the undergrowth by a boundary fence, some ten paces beyond the bush, where I assume it has its den. I left it undisturbed to digest it’s considerable intake of breakfast, all that remained being a few biscuits. And the memories.

(1 is roughly the position of the popin; 2 is the position of the ‘steeper’ steps shown in the first two images. When/if I can get a better aerial image I will replace the one above, but don’t hold your breath.)