By Jordan Gipson:
The Amarillo College biology building has brought the school values to life with a little hedgehog. Her name is Wiffy, which stands for the AC values, wow, innovation, fun, family and yes.
“The name Wiffy was chosen because she mixes family, fun and our values,” Dan Porter, biology professor, said. “Wow because she is a live animal. Innovative because she can be used in class. Family because she brings people together. Fun because she is fun to have and yes because we got to have her.”
The biology department’s former lab coordinator, Tracy Heins, donated the hedgehog. Heins has a farm where she raises hedgehogs. Wiffy accompanied Heins on a visit to the college and has been a part of the AC family since July.
While biology department employees were pleased to get the prickly present, they don’t recommend hedgehogs as pets. Wiffy has anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 quills on her body that make picking her up painful.
“Wiffy is not a good pet to have,” Porter said.
When Wiffy is agitated, she makes a hissing sound. When she feels threatened, she balls up and raises her quills toward the threat to protect herself from attack. These behaviors are her adaptations that protect her in the wild from predators. Wiffy is also nocturnal, which means she sleeps in the daytime and stays awake at night. So she would be loud while someone would be trying to sleep, Porter said.
“Once a month I bathe her with mild shampoo and cut her nails to maintain her hygiene,” Albert Patton, lab material supervisor, said. “Hedgehogs can actually be potty-trained,“ Patton said.
Wiffy’s cage is filled with cardboard bedding rather than wood shavings due to her quills. She tends to sleep curled up in a ball under her little house so she won’t be disturbed by all the light. In her cage she also has a heat lamp for the cold mornings and nights, and she eats cat food. Patton also said that Wiffy is very shy, but he hopes that with more human interaction that she will open up more.
Providing socialization for their nocturnal neighbor may prove a problem since few students even know Wiffy exists. “I had no idea we even had a hedgehog on campus,” Ciara Kessler, an education major, said. “I have no idea where she is.” Wiffy lives in room 210 of the biology building. Due to her nocturnal nature, it might be difficult to spot this new star.