Hedgehog anatomy and structure is basic, resembling primitive mammals, apart from specialisation of their integument. Both sexes have five pairs of nipples. In males the prepuce is some distance from the anus, near the navel, while in females the vulva is much closer to the anus. The testes are intra-abdominal.

Hedgehogs may be one of the oldest mammal groups, having remained relatively unchanged for around 15 million years. Their most distinguishable characteristic is their spines, which are modified hair made out of keratin, the same material as your hair and nails. Hedgehogs have 5,000 to 7,000 spines all over their body, with the exception of their underside, legs and face.

*Ernie the hedgehog

Some of you may have noticed that Ernie the Hedgehog was released during daylight. This is not a common practice. Ernie had been in our care for around 6 months. We wanted to ensure that he found his bearings really quickly, because the original area he was being released back to - on Heatherside - had changed dramatically. Several acres of shrubs and hedges directly in his territory had been removed during his time with us changing the landscape dramatically. It was decided to release him an hour before sunset, so that he could be followed easily and we could check that his demeanour reflected a knowledge of the area. Ernie very quickly found his bearings and was subsequently seen on trap cameras back in his original feeding station over the next few weeks - making it a successful release.

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