A pair of hedgehogs has been discovered without any spines – which are their spikes, not their actual, you know, spines.
Found in a street in Bridlington, UK, the two animals – named Charlie and Snoopy – have a rare genetic condition that means they were born completely bald, possibly due to a zinc deficiency.
"It's a very rare condition caused by a zinc deficiency and we think in the case of these two little guys baldness is also a family issue," said Alexandra Farmer, from the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary who are now looking after the animals, reported the Metro.
"They're clearly related because they were found wandering quite close together oblivious to the added danger they were in with no spines.
"They had just left their nest so we started a search to see whether we could find the rest of the litter but we couldn't, so if they had brothers and sisters we were left fearing the worst for them."
Hedgehogs, spiny mammals that are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, can have up to 8,000 spikes on their bodies. By curling into a ball, they can use these for defense from predators.
The spines are not poisonous nor are they barbed, but they do shed their younger spines as an adult in a process called quilling. They can also lose them due to stress. Without their spikes, they can be easy prey for animals like foxes and owls.
It’s hoped that Charlie and Snoopy will grow their own spines after being given iron supplements, so that they can be re-released into the wild. These are by no means the only spineless hedgehogs that have ever been found, but their discovery does highlight this odd quirk of a normally spiky animal.
Some projects suggest that hedgehogs could be wiped out in the UK by 2025, having dropped from about 30 million in the 1940s to just 1 million today. Keeping any and all of the animals alive is therefore of utmost importance.
"Through the winter months they’ll be kept inside and when spring comes we’ll let them out – but they won’t be able to roam far," said Farmer.
"It means we’ll keep a watchful eye on them at all times – they don’t have their own protection so we’ll have to do it for them!"