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She found an African pygmy hedgehog in the snow. It all ended happily.


Becky Baxter got a flurry of advice about how to care for a hedgehog and a few offers to adopt, but no clues about how an animal needing to live in a warm environment ended up by the side of the road in the snow.

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Becky Baxter was at the skating rink outside her brother-in-law’s house on Glen Isle Road near Carleton Place when a woman walking a dog asked if the children would like to see a baby porcupine.

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They went to have a look at the spiny creature curled up in the snow.

“I said, ‘That’s not a porcupine,’” Baxter said.

“I knew what it was right away. It was a hedgehog. My sister had one, and I’ve wanted one since I was 10.”

To be specific, this was a pygmy hedgehog or four-toed hedgehog, a diminutive critter native to African grasslands, sometimes kept as a pet. (Some municipalities, including Ottawa, have bylaws that prohibits keeping all insectivorous mammals, including hedgehogs, as pets.)

Baxter, a mother of two, posted a photo on a community Facebook page and the Ottawa and Valley Lost Pet Network. “I wanted to teach my kids the right thing to do when you find a missing animal.”

She got a flurry of advice about how to care for a hedgehog and a few offers to adopt, but no clues about how an animal needing to live in a warm environment ended up by the side of the road in the snow.

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“I don’t know how you would lose a hedgehog,” Baxter said.

The hedgie was female, and a bit on the plump side, as Baxter learned after she took her surprise find to a vet.

“The vet and a few breeders said she would not have lasted more than 10 minutes before she went into hibernation,” Baxter said. “And that would be dangerous.”

Hedgehogs are known to be solitary animals. They sleep during the day and wander at night as they would on the savannah. Sometimes they squeak or grunt. If startled or frightened, they roll into a ball with quills facing outwards. When kept as pets, they eat cat food, live insects such as meal worms and crickets and the occasional piece of fruit.

Hedgehogs are typically not social, but this one is very friendly, Baxter said. “If I pick her up, she instantly uncurls.”

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The Ottawa and Valley Lost Pet Network uses the power of social media to reunite missing and found pets and their owners, typically dogs and cats and occasionally birds and even a boa constrictor. A spokesperson couldn’t recall there ever being a lost or found hedgehog previously.

A lot of people have been shocked at the story of discovering a hedgehog in the snow, Baxter said. “She’s so social and so well-cared for. I thought someone must be missing her.”

Baxter decided to adopt the critter. So far she has spent her days sleeping in a warm enclosure. Baxter’s dog has been unfazed about the spiky new arrival.

“He’s used to me bringing things home,” Baxter said. “The cat just sits there and gives them dirty looks.”

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