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Home > Hedgehogs > Can Hedgehogs Swim? What You Need to Know

Can Hedgehogs Swim? What You Need to Know

Hedgehog beside the water

The question of whether hedgehogs can swim is common, which is more than likely because this nocturnal creature conducts most of its exercise under the cover of dark.

Whether wild or captive, hedgehogs are surprisingly strong swimmers, but only in certain bodies of water. They would struggle in water with a strong current, and they must have a ledge or other platform that offers a simple way in and out of the water. Swimming pools and some ponds are not suitable places for a hedgehog to swim, and if you have a pet hedgehog, you will need to ensure accessibility, or you could leave your prickly little friend stranded and in danger.

divider-hedgehog Natural Swimmers

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. They sleep during the day and hide and socialize at night. In the wild, they are opportunistic eaters. They eat vegetation and fallen fruit, but they also feast on a variety of insects, including beetles, worms, and caterpillars.

They are commonly found throughout Europe as well as the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. They are not found in Australia or the USA, although the latter country did once have an indigenous species of hedgehog that is now considered extinct.

A hedgehog can travel over a mile in a single night, foraging and hunting for food. Although they typically walk or shuffle, they can also run and are quite capable swimmers.

They are aided in water by their quills. Hedgehog quills are made of keratin, which is the same substance as our nails are made from. They are hollow, which means that they are sharp enough to deter predators but light enough for a hog to carry comfortably. These air-filled quills can act as a buoyancy aid, and if a hedgehog gets tired from swimming too far, it will turn over and allow the quills to keep it afloat while it regains energy.

African Pygmy Hedgehog
Image by: szabfer, Pixabay

Making Your Pond Safe

Despite taking to the water in search of food and being capable swimmers, many hedgehogs do drown. This is not because they are unable to swim but because they get stuck in a body of water that doesn’t offer easy egress: there is no ramp for them to walk out of. What’s more, if they are attracted by the scent of food on the other side of a pond or even a lake, they will jump in without thought of whether they will be able to get back out again.

Most natural ponds, rivers, lakes, and other natural bodies of water will offer some means of exit: an earthen ramp or rocks that they can clamber onto. On the other hand, swimming pools and some manmade ponds do not have these exits.

Even the natural float of a hedgehog’s spine will only keep the animal afloat for so long. If one becomes trapped in a swimming pool overnight, they are likely to run out of energy, and their heads fall under the water.

Make a Safe Bathing Area for a Pet Hedgehog

Because ponds and pools pose a problem, you should take precautions to make them as safe as possible for your visiting wildlife.

Bathing Area Safety Precautions
  • Offer a Natural Exit – A wild pond will usually have a shallower end. Consider having a natural ramp with earth or stones. The hedgehog will easily be able to walk out of the pond and onto dry land, having cleared it of insects.
  • Add Stones, Pots, and Planks – Incorporate some large stones or upturned pots near the edge of the water. Ensure that they just stick out of the top of the water and that a hedgehog would be able to step from the surface and onto dry land.
  • Buy a Wildlife Ladder – A hedgehog ladder can be made of wood, stone, or other material. It usually reaches the bottom of the pond and, rather than a vertical ladder, has a slope or steps that lead from the water to land.
  • Cover Your Pool – Pools are a major problem for hedgehogs. The water sits several inches below the ground, the pool has vertical walls, and there is even an overhanging section of pavement. Even the most agile of hedgehogs will not be able to climb to safety. Add a pool cover if you have a lot of hedgehog visitors. They should be able to climb out or, at least, will be able to hang on for longer and until help arrives.
  • Don’t Use Chemicals – Avoid using pond and pool chemicals that might be harmful to hedgehogs. This is good practice with ponds, anyway, if you want to attract any kind of wildlife and don’t want them to suffer.

Rescuing a Stranded Hedgehog

Even if you’re careful and set up your pond so that it has multiple points of exit for a hapless hedgehog, accidents can still happen. If there are good exits and the hedgehog is floating happily or swimming around, you can take the opportunity to watch. It will likely make its own way out when ready.

Alternatively, find a plank of wood or some other platform and put it near the hedgehog to offer a quick escape.

If it has worn itself out struggling, it may be too tired to even be able to get on the plank you provide. Wear gloves or use a towel to scoop it up into your hands, or use a pool net and scoop it out. Place it in a box with a towel, something to drink, and some food so that it can recharge before heading off.

European Hedgehog
Image by: Erik_Karits, Pixabay

Pet Hedgehogs

Pet hedgehogs are less likely to find themselves stranded in bodies of water like ponds and pools, but knowing that they like to swim, you can provide them with an occasional pool of their own. Fill a tub or other waterproof container and use earth or some other material to create a natural slope. Fill the tub with water so your prickly pet can get in and out of the water at will.

Remember, though, that hedgehogs are good swimmers, but they do not need to bathe in water. They will bathe in dust, instead, like other wild animals.


Final Thoughts: Can Hedgehogs Swim?

Hedgehogs can swim. They are strong swimmers for their size, covering distances of nearly a mile a night in water. However, they cannot stay in the water forever. Artificial ponds and pools can pose a real danger to them because they do not offer a natural or easy way to get out of the water.

There are ways to protect hedgehogs and other wild animals from drowning or getting stuck, and even if one is stranded, it may not be too late. All you need to rescue a stranded hedgehog is a towel.

Featured Image Credit: Nomad, Shutterstock

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