European Hedgehog Fact File
The European hedgehog is a small animal with a body covered with spines. Across their body they may have up to 4,00 spines which are brown with a white tip and black stripes. These spines cover all of their body except the face and belly.
In parts of their range the hedgehogs are blonde with mostly white spines.
These spines are formed from keratin (the same substance as human hair) and attached to skin in a similar method to hair.
At the end of the body is a short tail measuring between 1 and 2cm (0.4-0.8in) long.
Their face is colored brown with a black nose and black eyes.
Their legs are short raising their body only 2.5cm (1in) above the ground.
Their body measures between 22 and 27cm (9 and 10.5in) long. Their weight is between 0.9 and 1kg (2-2.25lbs).
The European hedgehog is an omnivore. Their diet includes insects, berries, mushrooms, fruit, birds eggs and frogs. They are not affected by venom and as such they can eat bees, wasps and even venomous snakes such as adders.
Average 2-3 years
Maximum 10 years
— AD —
European hedgehogs can be found in Europe as their name suggests but also in parts of Europe. Here they live in the following countries – Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
An introduced population of this species has been created in New Zealand.
You will find the European hedgehog living in deciduous woodlands, woodland edges and grasslands.
Humans and hedgehogs live alongside one another well and they are often seen in orchards, vineyards, farmland, parks and gardens. They commonly occur in urban areas.
Breeding takes place from April to September. Animals born later in the breeding cycle are less likely to survive as they must put on enough weight to hibernate.
During mating the male will circle the female while hissing and snorting. If she is ready to mate she flattens her spines and mating can then commence.
A littler of hedgehogs will include between four and five young (known as hoglets). These are born after a 31-35 day gestation period.
The hoglets are blind with the eyes opening between 11 and 14 days old.
At birth the spines are encased in a fluid-filled skin. Within a few hours the fluid dissipates and the spines stick up. Two to three days later these original spines are replaced by dark colored ones. The adult spines grow in between two and three weeks old.
Young are weaned between four and six years old. At this time they will start to leave the nest. They are independent by one year old at which time they will also achieve sexual maturity.
Females can have either one or two litters each year.
Over winter hedgehogs will hibernate. This typically lasts from November to April. During their hibernation they will nest in a pile of leaves or logs. The winter nest is called a ‘hibernaculum’ which comes from a Latin word meaning ‘tent for winter quarters.’
This species is primarily nocturnal. During the day they retreat to a nest. They will build a new nest every few days.
Each day the may travel 2km (1mile) while looking for food.
Hedgehogs will turn around to lick and smear their spines with saliva. The reason for this is unclear. It is thought it may help them to recognize other hedgehogs when they come across them.
They are good swimmers and climbers.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the European hedgehog include badgers, foxes, owls, dogs and snakes.
When threatened by a predator the European hedgehog will curl in to a ball and stiffen its spines helping to protect them. One way predators may get around this is to drop the hedgehog from a height which shocks or injures them with the aim of exposing the underbelly.
Humans threaten them through habitat fragmentation such as the building of walls, fences and roads. One way to help them thrive is to place a hedgehog hole in a fence so they can move around.
They may also be given inadequate foods from humans which can make them ill. Pets such as dogs and cats may attack them. Pesticides can get in to their food and poison them.
Over winter they will rest in a nest known as a hibernaculum.
By PiotrHalas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2824241
By Michael Gäbler, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25702847
By Hrald – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7384923
By Lars Karlsson (Keqs) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=950134
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