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Who’s Who in the Folsom Zoo; Meet Boss Hog

By: Telegraph Staff
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Editor’s note: This is a weekly feature in the Folsom Telegraph where readers will get the opportunity to meet Folsom’s furriest. This week’s “Who’s Who in Folsom Zoo” is Boss Hog, an African Pygmy Hedgehog.

The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary is home to some critters who enjoy helping with the sanctuary’s special programs like Zoo-to-You Outreach and onsite birthday parties. Docent animal handlers may also introduce you to these animal ambassadors at Storytime (in the zoo, at Karen’s Bakery or at the library) and during other special events.

One of these awesome mammals is Boss Hog, an African Pygmy Hedgehog. Boss Hog came to live at the sanctuary because it is illegal in California to have them, or any wild animal, as a pet. Boss Hog lives in his indoor enclosure year-round. It is designed especially for him with an exercise wheel and a snuggle pocket for sleeping.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs are found in eastern and central Africa. In their native climate, they sleep through the heat under rocks and logs to stay cool. They are nocturnal animals, sleeping (rolled into a ball) during the day, and most active at night in search of food. Foraging through hedges and plant undergrowth and making pig-like grunts has earned them their name, hedgehog!

They are omnivorous eaters. Their natural diet consists of insects (termites and beetles), spiders, millipedes, earthworms and slugs with some plant material like roots, fruits and fungi. While hunting, hedgehogs rely on their sense of hearing and smell because their eyesight, though adapted to night vision, is weak. Boss Hog’s zoo sanctuary diet includes a high-quality kitten chow topped with dried mealworms.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs are also known as “four-toed hedgehogs.” They are about 8 inches long with very short legs. Each of their hind feet have four toes while their front feet have five toes. Their bodies are covered with about 5,000 very stiff and very sharp spines. The individual spines drop off after about a year and a new one grows in its place. Their average life span in the wild is two-to-three years.

When a hedgehog feels threatened or angry they chirp, hiss and/or growl. To protect themselves from predators, they will curl into an unappetizing, prickly ball. The sanctuary docent animal handlers see various behaviors exhibited when they handle Boss Hog. Sometimes he rolls into his protective ball and sometimes he stretches out and appears to enjoy lap time.

Hedgehogs are solitary animals. The male and female come together only during mating season. The female will give birth to up to 11 hoglets (baby hedgehogs). After about four weeks, the mother will take her young foraging. At about 10 weeks of age, the young will leave to live on their own.

Watch the zoo sanctuary calendar for special events on the city website at folsom.ca.us. Maybe you will meet some of the zoo sanctuary’s special creatures like Boss Hog.

The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary is located at 403 Stafford Street. Enjoy cooler morning hours now through Aug. 31 when the zoo sanctuary opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m.