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Thursday, July 08, 2010

UK Overrun By Lactose-Intolerant Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are not native to North America, but they're so common in England that Monty Python included them in a skit. Dinsdale Piranha, the crime boss, had an imaginary hedgehog enemy named Spiny Norman that grew bigger and bigger the more depressed Dinsdale got. At worst, Norman could be up to 800 feet long.

I don't know what an 800-foot hedgehog would eat (first person to say "anything it wants" gets bounced from the internet) but I know what not to feed him: milk. Yes, adult hedgehogs, just like the adults of every other mammalian species, are lactose intolerant. Which makes them like the majority of adult humans.



It's also true that a majority of adult humans try to rescue distressed animals and apparently feed them the first thing that comes into their heads, which is - you guessed it - milk. So every year I have to run a story about Brits being warned not to serve their hedgehogs milk. Last year it was Yes, Hedgehogs Are Lactose Intolerant Too. Two years ago Lactose Intolerant Hedgehogs with greenish diarrhea. Ew.

And this year it's a twofer. Lorena Higgins of The Irish Times found an Irish family who adopted five abandoned baby hedgehogs but had sense enough to talk to a veterinarian before they started feeding them:

Mr Thomas is using a heat lamp to provide warmth, and the animals are being fed lamb’s colostrum, which is normally given to young lambs in springtime.

Mr Thomas said that this was on the advice of a vet and pharmacist, as the hedgehogs cannot tolerate lactose found in milk. He has also been using a syringe to feed vitamin supplements.

Somewhat less sensible was the writer and/or editor of The Malvern Gazette, who couldn't be bothered to proofread their article.
Wildlife lover Viv Smith, who runs Malvern Hedgehog Rescue, has seen a marked increase in the number of distressed animals being reported and brought in this summer.

"It is a red alert situation really," she explained. "Hedgehogs and other wildlife are so emaciated and dehydrated at the moment because they cannot find their natural sources of food and water.

"The ground is so hard that they are not able to dig for food."

Mrs Smith is calling on members of the public to help out by putting out food and water for hedgehogs.

Mrs Smith also spelled out what not to put out:
Bread and water should not be put down for hedgehogs as they are lactose intolerant and gain no nutritional value from the bread.

Uh, no. That makes no sense. What that was supposed to read was:
Bread and milk should not be put down for hedgehogs as they are lactose intolerant and gain no nutritional value from the bread.

Still. Two article about lactose-intolerant hedgehogs. No wonder England got bounced out of the World Cup.

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