I'm just curious if any of our European forum members have had a hedgehog encounter while hiking.

From what I've been reading on another forum and in that book based on those Western European Hedgehog attacks in the spring of 2005 in Aldernay, an island off the Guernsey coast, these vicious animals can cause havoc to anyone heading out into the wild in areas that fall within their habitat.

My fear is based on that book that recounts the two near- fatal attacks on the island by a particular hedgehog species indigenous to Aldernay, the small island off the coast of France that still remains a British Crown Dependency.

For several years the media has compared the Spring of '05 attacks to those of grizzly bears in Glacier National Park on August 13, 1967, when two women were killed in separate incidents in the park. The shere number of hedgehog attacks on the island was phenomenal, with 14 persons reported to have been attacked by hedgehogs on the night of March 23, 2005. Subsequent investigations by the 23 journalists and free-lance writers who attempted to make a living off the tragedy dropped the final tally of hedgehog victims to two.

Since hedgehogs are not native to the U.S. most hikers here are unaware of this dangerous mammal, a member of the subfamily Erinaceinae. They can grow to an enormous length of 400 millimeters, and besides their razor-sharp teeth, their deadly quills can inflict a "heap of pain" when they are cornered or become overtly aggressive.

On YouTube, aggressive hedgehog behavior has been recorded and includes a hedgehog biting off the nose of a person (at the end of the clip):


What happened on that fateful night in March of 2005 still baffles scientists, journalists, and surviving hikers.

On the island of Aldernay a subspecies of blonde hedgehogs inhabits the island. These "blonde hedgehogs," estimated at about 1,000, are believed to have been responsible for the attacks on a hiker and a local resident in 2005. Image of Aldernay's blonde hedgehog here.

Early reports of more than a dozen attacks have been attributed to the misunderstanding of local Aldernay culture. Apparently the residents of Aldernay are often called vaques (cows) or lapins (rabbits), and are knicknamed after the domesticated animals that greatly superscede the humans in island population. And early reports not only included hedgehog attacks on humans, but mistakenly included those on islanders' cows and rabbits, too.

The actual events of that night detailing the attacks on a vacationing London hiker and a local farmer are detailed in the book, "Night of the Hedgehogs," by Reginald Sebastian Heath, a Notttingham hiker who has dedicated his life (and his inheritance) to chronicling hedgehog aggression on British hikers in Europe, Africa and New Zealand -- where hedgehogs reside.)

Surely the most interesting theory for the attacks is "nature's revenge." Apparently at a cricket match at St. Anne's, the only town on the island the previous night, the cricket ball was lost and in order to continue the match a blonde hedgehog, rolled up into its defensive posture of a tight ball, was used in its place to complete the night's event.

Some have dismissed those two attacks as random, or that the Aldernay subspecies was just having a "blonde moment." But I disagree and highly recommend you order a copy of Heath's spellbinding book that details the night of those attacks, including the grisly account of the Brighton hiker who almost died of blood-loss from ankle bites inflicted by a pack of savage blonde hedgehogs apparently intent on revenge for their compatriot taking a few whacks from a cricket bat.

- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)