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Wildlife in my French garden

Until hedgehogs arrived in our garden, the only time I’d seen them was sadly, squashed in the road.

However, a few years ago my step daughter Tasha who was staying with us came running in to say that there were two hedgehogs on the terrace. We went to look and sure enough there they were, an adult and baby snuffling around in the cat food bowl. We watched for a while and listened to them making snorting noises, no wonder they’re called hedgehogs.

Ever since then, as soon as they wake up from their winter hibernation, hedgehogs have arrived nightly at our back door looking for food.

They’re not polite animals. We generally see a large male who’s always on his own, we call him Herrison Ford as the French word for hedgehog is hérisson. There also a female and at times she’ll be with her baby, she seems to have just one each year. And there are two juveniles who live up to the name delinquents. They push the cats out of the way. They climb right into the food bowls, scoff loudly, and leave a nasty mess behind them. If I get forget to put food out, they rampage about the terrace knocking everything over.

Even though there’s plenty of water out there for the cats, the hedgehogs like to drink the water in the dog’s pen. We keep our three dogs in their own fenced off part of the garden during the day. Individually they’re all really well behaved, all together, well, they act like a pack and chase the birds and cats and generally misbehave. After dinner they come into the house and lay on cushions on the floor until bed time when they sleep in a little room on the back of the house.

Before bed I let the dogs out for a drink and a wee and most nights, there’s a hedgehog drinking out of their bowl. Churchill, our small German Pinscher is fascinated and wants to make friends. He taps the hedgehogs on the back but very carefully since he’s learned the prickles that cover them are sharp. Ella Fitzgerald, a Spaniel/German Shepherd mix, steers clear. Bruno the Labrador is rather dim and always licks them. The hedgehogs curl into a round ball so you can’t even see their heads and then they roll onto the floor and play dead. We don thick gloves, pick them up and pop them to safety outside. There they lay until we go in and turn the lights off then go about their night life…

More about life in France in My Good Life France, by Janine Marsh available from book shops, Amazon and all major book outlets (Amazon.co.uk)

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