Meet the newest member of the Bass Lake Park family! Daisy is an albino hedgehog and the only mammal who lives in the park office. She's not alone, however; Daisy joins 23 other live animals on display, including native fish, lizards, snakes, frogs and turtles.
About six months old, Daisy enjoys a diet of cat food and mealworms and requires a bath at least once a week.
"People don't get to see mammals very often in the wild," said park employee Stephanie Wage. "They're not as easy to come by and not as prolific."
Because Daisy is albino, Wage said she'll come in handy during park programs that discuss genetic mutations. Her hollow spines are another unique feature that demonstrate hair adaptations. In addition to using quills to deter predators, hedgehogs curl into balls for protection, a defense mechanism similar to the armadillo, which is beginning to be found in North Carolina's southern counties. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight and survive on their sense of smell and hearing, similar to moles.
"She's kind of like a big gerbil who needs a little extra care," said Steve McElhaney, park naturalist. "The more you handle hedgehogs when they're younger, the better they'll adapt to you."
Park staff said Daisy needs more handling before she's ready to be included in park programs.
"She's cute," Wage said. "I like when she sticks her tongue out."
"I like her quills," McElhaney said, adding that Daisy's more than 5,000 attached quills do not come out like a porcupine's quills.
Hedgehogs are not indigenous to North Carolina. Daisy was purchased from an exotic animal rescue facility. Special permits are needed to display native mammals. Native wild mammals at Bass Lake Park include squirrels and otters. Cameras at the park have photographed what staff believe to be a family of otters near a creek crossing.
Park staff invite residents of all ages to visit the park office and the 24 live animals that live there. Native animals include fish, turtles, frogs, snakes and lizards. The park office also includes guidebooks, mounted animals, skulls, skeletons and turtle shells – many of which visitors can touch. Click here for more information about Bass Lake Park.