Squirrels and hedgehogs in Fuerteventura

The arid landscape of Fuerteventura, together with the non-existence of wooded areas invites us to think that, on this island, there is hardly biodiversity. However, do not forget that, Fuerteventura has been a Biosphere Reserve since 2009. It has more than 1700 species of animals and 800 plants, many of they are endemic and in serious danger of extinction.

Fuerteventura is considered one of the places of greatest biodiversity of Europe, so we must take care of it. Among the actions we should take to conserve our environment, is to not import or feed invasive plant or animal species. If there is an invasive species that takes the cake, and is doing great damage to the flora and fauna, is the squirrel (ardilla moruna)

Squirrels in Fuerteventura

We just have to take a walk, anywhere on the island, to watch a myriad of playful squirrels approach calling our attention, and begging for some easy food. Moorish squirrels have become, over the years, a plague in Fuerteventura. They are extremely harmful to crops, but they can also be harmful to humans.

The Moorish squirrel is a rodent from North Africa. It is an omnivorous species, which predates both plants and terrestrial mollusks and eggs of small birds. Has the body covered in short hair and a bushy tail, both run longitudinally by four dark brown bands and two white. The head is reddish-brown with a dark muzzle. His ears are small.

How did the squirrels get to Fuerteventura? 

It only took 2 of these squirrels to create a plague, today, uncontrollable. The first Moorish squirrels arrived in Fuerteventura, in the spring 1965. It was a neighbor from Gran Tarajal, who brought a pair of squirrels from the ex-Spanish colony of Sidi Ifni. The fortuitous escape of one of the squirrels, and the subsequent release of the other was the beginning of the great colony of the island. Three years Later, these had multiplied and occupied a hillside next to the Aceituno ravine. It was an attraction for the residents of the island, who came there to feed them.

In the early 70’s it became fashionable to have squirrels Moorish as a pet. This caused the classic disputes between the children, who insisted on taking in one of these rodents, and the mothers, who were not willing to have mice with beautiful fur in their houses. Many of the squirrels captured in the south of the island, for this purpose, were liberated in the north, increasing Squirrels spread exponentially across the island. It is estimated that there are already more than a million of these rodents camping at ease in Fuerteventura.

Moorish hedgehogs, another invasive species. 

The Moorish hedgehog is another invasive species brought to the island, by man. They are causing a lot of damage to the biodiversity of Fuerteventura.

The Moorish hedgehog has the back of its body covered with spikes, which protects him from predators. Its snout is pointed and colored dark, his ears small and rounded. The coloring of its body varies from light to dark brown. It is a nocturnal animal. its Activity begins shortly after sunset, and the return to Burrows usually occur a little while before sunrise. In that time of time is when they dare to cross the roads, being run over by cars. Dare I say that we have all seen more hedgehogs squashed on the road than scampering freely.

The Moorish hedgehogs feed mainly on small invertebrates and some fruits. Prey birds eggs and chickens autochthonous that nest on the ground and consume a large quantity of endemic invertebrates. As with squirrels, hedgehogs were introduced artificially in Fuerteventura from Africa, but these a century before. Some researchers believe that the hedgehog was brought intentionally in the early 19th century. Others, in Instead, they argue that they arrived in the Canary Islands accidentally, end of the same century, through the ships that went and they came to the African coast.

Be that as it may, the Moorish hedgehog has been colonizing the island, extending to the entire Canary Islands, including the Chinijo archipelago. We can also see Moorish hedgehogs throughout the basin Mediterranean. But this dispersal happened long before, specifically in the twelfth century. It was introduced by the Almohads, who considered the meat of the Moorish hedgehog a delicacy. Furthermore, they believed that they had medicinal properties. The “friendly” aspect of the animal makes it sometimes look like pet, but most people do not know what it is of an invasive species harmful to the biodiversity of Canary Islands.

Frequently asked questions about squirrels and hedgehogs in Fuerteventura. 

Is it allowed to feed the squirrels? 

It is not advisable to feed the Moorish squirrels as they are transmitters of diseases by amoeba highly pathogenic for humans, as well as contagious bacteria for wild animals and man. They carry viruses transmissible to man such as murine typhus, Kala-azar or cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Is it legal to have a hedgehog or squirrel as a pet? 

It is not legal to have a hedgehog or a Moorish squirrel. Nor any hybrid. In addition, it is totally prohibited to release, commercialize, reproduce or cede any of the species that are within the Spanish Catalog of Invasive Exotic Species. We must know that the possession of native wild species as pets is illegal and a crime that can be sanctioned with heavy fines.


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