Dangerous hedgehogs may be in your neighborhood

You will soon be able to fill your home with hedgehogs without a permit. Legislation to achieve this was sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey, and drew a full house of opponents and supporters at its public hearing. Currently you may possess hedgehogs in Maine with a permit from DIF&W.

Brakey testified that he submitted the bill for a Mechanic Falls sixth-grader. “Hedgehogs are an increasingly popular pet, both here in Maine and across the country,” said Brakey. “One zoologist I spoke with on this issue estimated there are 10,000 hedgehogs owned by Mainers here in our state. And it makes sense why hedgehogs are popular. Beyond being undeniably adorable, they are hypoallergenic, low maintenance and emit little odor compared to some other common pets.”

Jim Connolly of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposed the bill, but only because the agency is already in the process of adopting rules that would allow hedgehogs to be possessed without permits. At the work session on LD 35, the IFW killed the bill after DIF&W reiterated that it would be placing hedgehogs on its unrestricted list this year, so that they could be possessed without a permit.

I paid particularly close attention to Katie Hansberry’s testimony. Katie is the state director of the Humane Society of the United States. She spoke in opposition to the bill which she said “poses a threat to public health and animal welfare. While we are not opposed to a restructuring of or adjustment to the permit costs for captive wildlife, it is important to retain the permit requirement to help ensure that hedgehogs are kept in homes where their specialized needs can be met and the human health risks minimized.”

Katie reported that “Hedgehogs pose a public health risk. As evidenced by a recent outbreak, hedgehogs are a source of deadly Salmonella infections and can carry Salmonella bacteria without exhibiting any sign of illness. In June 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections that were linked to pet hedgehogs. Of the 26 people who were infected, 35% were children 10 years of age or younger, 35% were hospitalized, and one died.” Yikes!

Katie continued, “Other confirmed zoonotic diseases carried by hedgehogs include Yersinia pseudotuberculosis (which primarily causes a gastroenteritis with complications that include reactive arthritis), Mycobacterium marinum (resulting in lesions resembling those of sporotrichosis, tularemia, nocardiosis, and blastomycosis), rabies, herpesvirus (including human herpes simplex), and Trychophyton mentagrophytes var. erinacei (ringworm). The importation of hedgehogs from Africa to the United States has been prohibited since 1991 (Title 9 Code of Federal Regulations Section 93.701) due to their potential to carry foot-and mouth disease.”

Katie went on to say, “Hedgehogs pose a risk to native wildlife and habitat. It has been documented that hedgehogs introduced into the wild in new areas have established populations. The escape or intentional release of pet hedgehogs presents a risk to Maine’s native animals, because they may compete for food, habitat, and introduce new diseases.

“One study found that approximately l0 percent of pet hedgehogs in the U.S. suffer from Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS), which causes progressive paralysis and ultimately leaves the majority of afflicted animals completely paralyzed. Pet hedgehogs are prone to mange, a variety of tumors, corneal ulcers and other ocular injuries, as well as obesity and a host of other problems that result from an improper diet,” she said.

Makes you wonder why DIF&W is willing to allow anyone in Maine to have hedgehogs with or without a permit!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.