Hedgehogs are one of the UK’s most loved garden dwellers, famously being unmistakable due to their spiky exterior. However, sightings are becoming less common as their habitat continues to reduce and their numbers decline.
Intensive farming has reduced the hedgehog’s rural habitat, so urban areas and gardens are now vital for their survival.
Their food source, primarily earthworms and insects, is diminishing due to an increase in hard surfaces and pesticide use in urban areas.
Reduced connectivity between gardens and other habitats restricts the movement of hedgehogs when they are in search of food, mates and shelter.
When under threat, hedgehogs roll up into a tight ball and use their spines as protection against predators. This can be useful protection from other animals, but it can mean they fall victim to cars on roads, as they stop and roll up in defence instead of running away.
Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus
Weight: up to 1.2kg
Length: up to 30cm
Spines: up to 7,000, each 2-3cm long
Urban and suburban gardens, parks and churchyards are vitally important hedgehog habitats, as they now utilise these areas more than rural farmland habitats.
The home range of a hedgehog is between 10 and 20 hectares, which is the same size as 10 to 20 rugby pitches! Hedgehogs are active at night and can travel up to two kilometres each night to search for food.
They forage on insects, worms, slugs and snails by rooting around in the undergrowth and in hedgerows. During the daytime and throughout hibernation, hedgehogs shelter in nests made of leaves, grass and moss. These can be under bushes, hedges, sheds, unlit bonfires, or in man-made hedgehog houses.
Hedgehog mating season begins in May. The mating ritual of the hedgehog involves the male circling the female whilst making snorting noises. The female is pregnant for around four and a half weeks, and on average gives birth to four or five hoglets.
The hoglets stay with their mother for six to eight weeks before becoming independent and solitary. Sometimes hoglets are born later in the season. These later autumn juveniles may not survive winter, as they struggle to gain the weight required for successful hibernation.