There are a variety of animals that only venture out after the sun goes down, and it’s their nocturnal nature they rely on for their very survival. Why they come out at night all depends on these four factors:
Predators: Certain animals, like hamsters, only come out at night because their predators are out during the day. Being nocturnal helps them avoid being spotted.
Prey: Some predators only surface at night to catch prey. Nocturnal animals such as the owl are usually equipped with great hearing and enhanced eyesight.
Competition: To rule out competition and increase their odds of finding food, certain animals like coyotes hunt at night so to avoid fighting with other animals over a meal.
Temperature: Some animals such as the chinchilla, or reptiles like desert iguanas, sleep during the day to avoid the hot afternoon temperatures. They come out at night when the climate is cooler, and they can safely explore their surroundings.
Now meet some of the creatures who aren’t afraid of the dark.
Otherwise known as a nocturnal gliding possum, these small, omnivorous creatures belong to the marsupial family. Their gliding membrane extends from their forelegs to hind legs, which helps them to reach food and evade predators. Unique to Australia, New Guinea, and certain Indonesian islands, these cute little animals are covered in soft, pale gray to brown fur. During the day they find shelter in hollow trees but have to be careful at night. Their primary predators who also reside in the same habitat are owls, snakes, and feral cats among others.
The kinkajou is a rainforest mammal and is related to the raccoon. Also known as the “honey bear,” these little guys can sometimes be mistaken for ferrets or monkeys but ironically, are not closely related to either. Native to Central and South America, these animals are rarely seen because of their nocturnal habits. Their habitat is a closed-canopy tropical forest, which means that deforestation threatens their survival. They have sharp teeth and live off of an omnivorous diet that consists mainly of fruit (they especially love figs). They also eat leaves, flowers, and sometimes insects. Kinkajou spend most of their lives in trees and play a major role in seed dispersal which is vital for the environment. Like most mammals, this creature has one big predator who also contributes to its reclusiveness: Humans. Unfortunately, the kinkajou is hunted for its fur and meat. Governments require people to provide permits to export the animal.
There are 17 species of hedgehog found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as New Zealand. Their spines are not poisonous or barbed like the quills of a porcupine to whom they are not related. Hedgehogs can shed their spines when under extreme stress, or they fall out as they are replaced with adult spines in a process called “quilling.” When in defensive mode, hedgehogs possess the ability to roll into a tight ball, causing all of the spines to point outwards to protect themselves. When they roll up into a ball, the quills on the back shield the parts of the body that are not quilled. While that tactic is mostly effective, depending upon the number of spines, hedgehogs are more likely to either flee first or attack by ramming a potential predator with their spines. While their main predator is the badger, some hedgehogs fall prey to birds such as owls as well as ferrets. Smaller hedgehogs can fall victim to foxes, wolves, and mongooses. Similar to opossums, mice, and moles, hedgehogs have some natural immunity against some snake venom. They are omnivorous, so they do feed on things like snakes, as well as insects, snails, frogs and toads, bird eggs, carrion, mushrooms, grass roots, berries, and melons. The nocturnal hedgehog tends to sleep through most of the day. You can find them under bushes, grasses, rocks, or most commonly, in dens dug in the ground. All wild hedgehogs have the ability to hibernate, although not all do. Factors depend on the type of species, temperature, and food.
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