Fun and Strange Animal Facts For Kids

Wild Animals in Italy

These fun and sometimes strange animal facts for kids are all about the animals that can be found in Maremma in Italy: a very special place of wildernesses, nature reserves, protected parks, beaches and the underwater worlds of two Mediterranean seas. All rich in flora and fauna, many of which are protected species.

I hope you enjoy reading them: I had fun compiling them and learnt a lot about the wild animals I am lucky to see on my travels in this beautiful land.

Animal Facts for Kids: wild animals in ItalyAnimal facts for kids:no its not a sugar-coated caramel! But a local jellyfish.


Part One of 101 Animal Facts for Kids

The Badger
Tasso - Meles meles

Likes to eat small snakes, but is immune to viper venom and if they do find a bee hive - they like honey - they can be stung many times over by a swarm of bees and feel little.

Badgers are fastiduously clean animals. They build toilets. The badger doesn't like a dirty home and digs small holes near to the entrance of its burrow, in which the family excrement.

They spring clean throughout the summer to prevent parasite infestations and even take their bedding out into the open air during the warmth of the day, returning it before nightfall. Now that reminds me of my Italian lady neighbours who every morning hang their blankets and bedding out of the apartment windows to air! And they rarely take their food home where it will dirty the set, prefering to eat the food they find on the spot.

And they bury their dead. If a badger dies in a burrow, the others in the set will either close-up the chamber or drag the body outside and bury it.

OK, one for older children: when they eat rabbits and hedgehogs they do so by turning them inside out, eating the meat and leaving behind the inverted skins.


The Edible Doormouse
Ghiro - Myoxus glis

The edible doormouse is capable of a limited form of self amputation - called autotomy: if a predator catches it by its tail, its tail skin will quickly break and peel off the length of its tail enabling it to escape and leaving its hunter with a mouthful of fur! The doormouse then breaks off his tail where the bone is exposed and it heals over into a bushy stump.

The ancient Romans used to breed this doormouse - in pits or ceramic containers - to eat as snacks.


The Fox
Volpe - Vulpes vulpes

Although the red fox will eat almost any animal that it can kill, it hates the taste of moles and won't eat those!


The Grass Snake
Biscia dal collare or Natrice dal collare - Natrix natrix

The Grass Snake is an excellent swimmer and can stay under water without breathing for more than thirty minutes.

And if disturbed, it will play dead and emit foul smelling liquid secretions from their anal glands. Sometimes they even feign attacks, striking without actually opening their mouths.


The Hare
Lepre - Lepus europaeus

The hare loves to jump and is a very fast runner, reaching speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, which it can maintain for long periods of time. And when it reaches its maximum speed, it jumps up to four metres high! Perhaps for joy, who knows and who wouldn't?!

Did you know that it also jumps the last three metres of distance to its lair to prevent any tracks and so shake off its predators.


Riccio - Erinaceus eurpaeus

Who would know that the common little old hedgehog is directly related to the very first mammals that appeared on Earth during the Cretaceous period: his only adaptation over millions of years are his spines of which he has about 6,000! Not only are they used as protection, but as shock absorbers should he fall on a climb.

But his wall of spines is ineffective against fox attacks: foxes have learnt to urinate on a curled-up hedgehog forcing it to uncurl and then biting its delicate nose to kill it.

He has ultrasonic hearing and can see up to 30 metres away in daylight and 12 metres at night.

Did you know that you must not feed hedgehogs milk and bread: cows milk is lethal for them and they cannot digest bread well.


The European Pole Cat
Puzzola - Mustela putorius

Another one for older children: the pole cat sometimes chooses to catch frogs and toads but eat them later. It bites the base of the frog or toads skull, piercing its brain with its sharp teeth and paralysing it, and then takes it home to its burrow where it stores it still alive and fresh to eat when it wants.

They suffer from flu and common colds just like us!


The Crested Porcupine
Istrice - Hystrix Cristata

The crested porcupine loves to collect bones, lots of them. It hordes all those that it finds during its nocturnal wanderings in an underground chamber or cave. During its lifetime, a porcupines collection can extend to thousands of bones!

The black and white marked quills of the crested porcupine are sturdier and longer than its others - at about 35 cm long - but they are not firmly attached to its body.

Its tail quills are shorter and hollow and if the porcupine vibrates them they produce a hissing rattling sound.

It charges backwards! If disturbed or threatened the porcupine will raise up and fan out all of its quills to make itself look bigger. And if it still feels threatened it will stamp its feet, whirr its tail quills and try to stab its opponent with its black and white quills by charging backwards. These quills have serrated edges and are difficult to remove without the use of a thumb and finger. Most animals resort to breaking them off leaving the ends still embedded in their skin and prone to infection. The crested porcupine has been known to kill leopards, lions, hyenas and even man with its defensive attack.


Roe Deer
Capriolo - Capreolus capreolus

The Roe deer is a fussy eater: it wont eat dirty grass! If there are fields or grasslands nearby where sheep or cattle have been they will normally avoid eating there as they consider the grass to be dirty!

When they mate from mid-July to August, the egg of the female is fertilised and embedded in her womb but it doesn't grow. Instead it remains dormant until the following December when it starts to develop.


Slow Worm
Orbettino - Anguis fragilis

The Slow Worm or Blind Worm loves to eat slugs and cleans off the vast collection of slime that accumulates from a good meal of them by rubbing its nose on the ground.

It amazingly can live for up to 50 years of age making it probably one of the longest living lizards on this planet!


The Stone Marten
Faina - Martes foina

The stone marten loves to feed on honey and has become immune to bee and wasp stings.

It will remove house roof tiles in its hunt for nests, nestlings or bats to eat.

And in the Spring months whilst the young are first active and still learning about foods they can and cannot eat, for some strange reason they like to bite clean through rubber hoses of cars! They don't eat them, but leave many a car owner stranded as a consequence!


The Least Weasel
Donnola - Mustela nivalis

The Least weasel doesn't walk: it jumps.

It loves brains! When there is an ample food supply for the weasel, it prefers to eat only the brains of the animals it has killed.

It thrived during the Ice Age because with its small long body it was able to move around under the snow and hunt in other animals burrows.

The Maremma Animal Fact File:
More Fun Animal Facts for Kids

Wild pigs piglets wild boarAnimal facts for kids: wild boar piglets


Three more pages packed with fun, strange, unusual and interesting facts about animals for children courtesy of the wild and wonderful animals living in Maremma in Tuscany and Lazio in Italy:

  • Part Two: fun animal facts for kids,
  • Part Three: interesting animal facts for kids, and
  • Part Four: strange animal facts for kids.





More facts about animals in Italy...




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