Hedgehogs are commonly met animals on the island of Crete, belonging to two different species, Erinaceus concolor and Erinaceus roumanicus. Unfortunately, they are considered a delicacy for some, and there several cases in Crete when these animals are eaten (mainly by Roma people). Lastly, the hedgehogs are considered sacred animals by the Greek Church because of the characteristic manner of mating, reminiscent of humans. Indeed, sometimes they mate face to face so as to avoid the spines on their back.
The hedgehog of Eastern Europe (Erinaceus concolor)
The hedgehog of the Eastern Europe (scient. Erinaceus concolor) is a common nocturnal mammal, distributed from Europe to Siberia. This very cute animal is frequently met in the mountainous areas of Crete.
Its body length reaches 30cm and, except its belly, is full of blackbrownish spines. The spines are actually hairs that have become hard because of deposited keratin, are 2cm long and are not poisonous. Young hedgehogs have soft spikes, which are replaced gradually by harder ones. The neck, face and belly of the hedgehogs does not have spines, but light soft hairs.
The hedgehog falls into winter hibernation and feeds on smaller animals and fruits. In the summer, it lays 3-4 babies after 4 months of gestation. In contrast to the usual fact, the female hedgehog is bigger than the male.
When it feels danger, it has the ability to roll into a tight ball, causing all of the spines to point outwards. Thus, the enemies cannot bite them and generally avoid them.
In most times of the day, hedgehogs sleep under a rock, a bush or a hole in the ground. Before hibernate they make a nest of moss and leaves under a tree and then sleep until March or April.
The northern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus)
The northern white-breasted hedgehog (scient. Erinaceus roumanicus) or the Romanian hedgehog is a different species from the Easter European hedgehog, but has many similarities. They differ in the color of their belly, that is whiter. The species has a global distribution extending from central and eastern Europe, the Baltic and the Balkan peninsula eastwards through Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, reaching as far as western Siberia. In the south, its range extends as far as the northern Caucasus and Crete. It is recorded from sea level to at least 1.400m altitude.
In Crete it is commonly met and can be confused with the second species met on the island. It faces the same threats with the Eastern European hedgehogs and has similar behavior.