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Things That Go Bump in the Night

“There is another world that lives beside the one we inhabit, the world of nocturnal creatures.”

When the sun goes down, and most people are turning in for the day, I’m heading out to hunt for the creatures that go bump in the night.

I gear up not with guns, but with my camera and notebook. I am a scientist by trade, so I enjoy learning about the world around me. My day job involves studying the bacteria that make us sick, but my passion is learning more about the animals we share our environment with.

There is another world that lives beside the one we inhabit, the world of nocturnal creatures. This world is open to anyone with the time and patience to explore. It’s a world filled with rabbits, foxes, mice, bats, and one of my favorite animals, hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are endangered in Europe, so seeing one alive, especially in certain countries, can be a special treat. Unfortunately, hedgehogs can often be seen on the side of the road, ran over by a car, a side effect of their tendency to freeze when frightened.

Yoal Desurmont/Unsplash

If you are lucky, you will catch one crossing your path or outside your window. They are shy creatures, and as their name implies they like to hug (or “hog”) the hedgerows, staying hidden inside them. In order to spot them sometimes, you have to go off the beaten path and search for them amongst the leaves and brush.

Walking through bushes at night can look extremely suspicious. Most people have given me quizzical looks while I peak under bushes and listen for hints of the rustling of leaves. Luckily, my traipsing through bushes at night hasn’t made anyone suspicious enough to call the police. A random person creeping around bushes at night isn’t exactly the most normal thing to do. I can only imagine how that conversation with a police officer would go. “No, sir. I am not trying to rob the houses in this neighborhood. I’m only trying to spot a hedgehog.”

Tim Foster/Unsplash

As with any wild animal, one must be cautious around them. Don’t pick them up unless they are critically hurt or sick, and try to keep your distance when observing them. As previously mentioned, these are shy animals and getting too close can cause them a lot of stress, especially if they have a nest nearby full of babies.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with hedgehogs, there are a few things you can do to help them out. Make sure there’s space in the fencing around your garden so that they can move freely from garden to garden. You can also put out water for them in a shallow pan. As for hedgehog houses, there are tutorials online that can show you how to construct a safe shelter for any “hedgies” visiting your garden. Most of the threats hedgehogs face are due to habitat erosion. So just following these simple steps will make a significant positive impact on the hedgehog community in your neighborhood.

If you don’t live in a place with hedgehogs, don’t fret. Our world is full of amazing animals; you just need to find one that interests you or one that could benefit from some helping hands. Just be careful if you end up wandering neighborhoods and rummaging through bushes. You might want to have your speech prepared explaining what you are doing for those confused citizens who don’t quite understand your passion for searching for wildlife that goes bump in the night.



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Whitney Weigel

From Louisville, Ky., Whitney graduated from the University of Louisville with a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa after having completed a previous postdoctoral fellowship at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany. Her current postdoctoral research focuses on understanding the role of the microbiome and virome in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease. When not working in the lab, she enjoys bird watching. When she moved to Germany, she bought a CD detailing 50 songs of the local birds so that she could identify them by sound alone.

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