Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)  

Class: Mammalia
Order: Insectivora
Family:    Erinaceidae
Size:    Length: 5.9 to 11.8 inches (15 to 30 cm)
Weight: 28 to 42 ounces (800 to 1200 g)
Diet: Insects, eggs, frogs, fruit, lizards, mice, snakes and vegetables
Distribution: Europe, Asia, North Africa and New Zealand
Young:  1 to 7, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Dogs, foxes, polecats, badgers, owls and raptors
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Male:  Boar
Lifespan: Up to 7 years in the wild and 10 years in captivity



·       Each hedgehog has about 5,000 spines.

·       Of 100 insect species tested, hedgehogs rejected only aphids and ladybugs.

·       Although similar in appearance to porcupines, hedgehogs are more closely related to moles and shrews.



Hedgehogs’ bodies are covered with quills, except for their face and undersides. They have a long, pointy snout, small eyes, short legs and padded feet. Hedgehogs are known for pulling themselves into a spiky ball when threatened, protecting their soft stomach. When on the alert, hedgehogs’ quills or spines crisscross over each other in an arrangement that is nearly impenetrable. This arrangement acts as armour, giving them nearly 100% protection from all but the most determined predator.



Hedgehogs can be found in the United Kingdom, through Europe and Asia to North Africa. In the 1800s they were transported to New Zealand and have prospered there. They can be found throughout open woods, cultivated lands and sand dunes. 


Feeding Habits

Hedgehogs eat a large variety of foods including insects, eggs, frogs, fruit, lizards, mice, snakes and vegetables. Gardeners especially appreciate hedgehogs because they help to control insect and vermin populations. Many of the animals they eat are toxic to humans, including wasps, bees and poisonous snakes. 



During mating season, which lasts from April to August, a male will circle a female for several hours. If unreceptive, the female will keep her spines up and even ram the male if he comes too close. A female who is receptive will flatten her spines to keep them out of the way. The male holds onto her shoulder with his teeth to keep from slipping off the slippery spines. Afterwards, the male goes his own way. The female gives birth approximately 33 days later to up to seven babies, whose spines will be just below the skin at birth, but will emerge within 24 hours. The first set of spines are soft, but within 36 hours are replaced by a second and then a third coat of spines. In 11 days, the youngsters can curl into protective balls, and at two weeks, they open their eyes. They are weaned at four to six weeks. Males are distinguishable from females by the pink button towards the centre of the abdomen. 



Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, hiding in hedges or bunches of leaves during the day and coming out at night to hunt for food. They wander through their home range searching for food, and with their keen nose, can detect prey up to three centimetres (1.2 inches) under the soil. Although they usually wander about in a slow fashion, hedgehogs are capable sprinters, swimmers and climbers. During the winter, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve energy. In November, when the weather cools, they wrap themselves up in a cocoon of dry leaves and their heart rate will drop to less than 20 beats per minute. They may wake up occasionally to hunt for food, but will not completely come out of hibernation until March, when the weather begins to warm up. 



Hedgehogs have adapted very well to living in close proximity with humans and are in no danger of extinction.