General Information


Common Name: European Hedgehog

Scientific Name: Erinaceus Europaeus

Description: Adults 22-28 cm long, covered on back and flanks by up to 6000 sharp spines; face and underside with coarse brown fur.

Habitat: Woodland, pasture, hedgerows, parks and gardens. Suburban and urban green spaces are becoming increasingly important refuges for hedgehogs.

Diet: Ground dwelling invertebrates, especially worms, beetles, slugs, spiders and grubs. Will also eat dogfood and catfood if left out!

Habits: Hedgehogs are nocturnal and hibernate through winter. They are solitary except for mothers with young. When threatened hedgehogs curl into a ball so their sharp spines can protect them.

Breeding: 4 – 5 young (hoglets) are born generally in spring after a one month gestation period. They weigh 11 – 25g at birth and are cared for by the female only. They are weaned at eight weeks. Sometimes a second litter may be born in mild weather though young may struggle to gain sufficient fat reserves to survive winter. Hedgehogs become sexually mature at one year and have a maximum longevity of ten years although it is usually less than four years in the wild.

Hedgehogs are probably the most often seen (or heard) mammal in the urban garden. With their nocturnal habits, they may visit many gardens in one night, foraging for caterpillars, worms, beetles, slugs, snails and any other edible bits and pieces they can find. They may travel several miles in one night searching for food or perhaps a mate. As dawn approaches they should return to their individual nests to sleep until it is dark again.

The nest will consist of garden debris, grass, leaves, bits of paper etc. It will be quite a large construction, over  a foot long, and is often made under a hedge, shed, pile of rubbish or brambles. In winter when nights get colder and their food is not so easily found, they will hibernate in their nests until conditions improve.

If they are slightly frightened or unsure, they will raise their spines to give them some protection, sometimes they may run away, as they have quite long legs! But if very frightened they will curl into a tight impenetrable ball. The spines are specialised hairs and when raised are quite sharp.

You can encourage hedgehogs to visit your garden more often by putting out food for them, particularly when the ground is hard (eg in droughts and in hard frosts), but it is important that if you do this you try to make your garden safe for them first.

Please do not put food out for a hedgehog near to where it sleeps. It is shown to be counter-productive. It will attract other predators, and other hedgehogs, neither of which will please your resident hedgehog. He or she would prefer any food to be as far away as possible, in front of your patio window maybe. They like privacy and isolation to feel safe. Hedgehogs are actually quite nasty to each other.