Yesterday I had coffee at the home of a faculty colleague, Dr. Anne Koenen. The delightful afternoon featured luscious homemade pastries, plus hedgehogs.
Germany loves hedgehogs. There is a powerful organization, Pro Igel, that lobbies on behalf of the cute little critters. It has forced McDonald's to change the design of the lids on its McFlurry's shakes, since with the previous design, hedgehogs were getting their heads trapped and starving to death. Pro Igel ("igel" is hedgehog in German) also has conferences, education programs, and a Hedgehog Hotline. Plus, they do igel rescue.
By now, hedgehogs should be hibernating for the winter. But in order to do that, they have to be fat enough to live off their stored calories for several months. Those little hedgehogs that are not yet fat enough are still scurrying around, desperately eating. Anne, who lives on the outskirts of Leipzig, puts out cat food for the stragglers. It's a race against the weather, because if the ground freezes, the food disappears before the hedgehogs can build a winter nest, and some don't make it. In that case, concerned citizens can call Pro Igel and they will collect the hedgehogs, bring them to a sort of artificial hibernation center, and provide each little furry creature with yet more food and then a cardboard box where it can hibernate until spring.
I saw one of these small, laggard hedgehogs in Anne's garden. Go, hedgehog! Eat hearty!