Hedgehogs - your guide to Britain's most loved creature and how to protect them

Hedgehogs - your guide to Britain's most loved creature and how to protect them

© Jon Hawkins

Cornwall's hedgehogs are disappearing. Let's protect Britain's most loved creature.

Here's everything you need to know about Britain's best loved creature and actions you can take to give them the best chance of recovery.

Jump to:

Information and Hedgehog facts
Actions you can take to help hedgehogs
What we are doing: Operation Hedgehog
Donate to the hedgehog appeal


Amy Lewis

Information and Hedgehog Facts

How well do you know these spiny garden visitors?

Where can hedgehogs be found?

Hedgehogs are found across the UK, absent only from some Scottish islands. Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, grasslands, parks and cemeteries are all important hedgehog habitats.

How far do hedgehogs travel?

Adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over home ranges as big as 10-20 hectares in size. In suburban areas, this means they range over entire housing estates and neighbourhoods.

What do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs are most famous for eating slugs and snails, but they eat a huge range of other garden invertebrates too. In fact, beetles, earthworms and caterpillars make up most of their diet, whereas large snail shells can prove tricky for hedgehogs to tackle. If you want hedgehogs, you need  creepy crawlies in abundance whichcan be attracted by planting a variety of different plants and creating habitats such as log piles.

When is the breeding season?

During the breeding season amorous hedgehogs can be seen (and heard!) circling each other with snorts and grunts. Young are usually born from May onwards
in litters of up to five and the young leave the nest after around four weeks. Baby hedgehogs (or hoglets) are born with their spines sheathed beneath their skin which then emerge a few hours after birth.

Are hedgehogs nocturnal?

"Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means they shouldn’t really be seen out in daylight hours. Some of the exceptions to this are pregnant females gathering nesting materials just before she gives birth, or a new ‘Mum’ taking a break from the nest to get food and water while her young sleep." - British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Do hedgehogs hibernate?

While many animals have adapted to cope with the harsh conditions of winter, hedgehogs are one of only a handful of UK mammals to truly hibernate, along
with bats and dormice. Depending on the weather and their body condition, they enter a state of torpor from October/ November to March/April, lowering their body temperature and slowing their metabolism to save energy. Hedgehogs must feed intensively and be in great condition before hibernating if they are to have enough reserves to last the winter.

Did you also know?

  • On average hedgehogs live for 2 to 5 years in the wild, but some have lived up to 10
  • An adult hedgehog has up to 7,000 spines and a small, hidden tail
  • Particularly slippery slugs are sometimes de-slimed with deft forepaws before eating
Hedgehog in feeding box

Gillian Day

Actions you can take to help hedgehogs

You can take action right now - small changes that make a big difference

Create hedgehog highways

Hedgehogs need to be able to roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites. Get together with your neighbours to cut a 13cm x 13cm hole (5in) hole in your fence or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to connect your gardens. You can then add your hedgehog hole to the national network at HedgehogStreet.org.

Avoid the use of pesticides

Ditch the slug pellets and avoid the use of pesticides. Hedgehogs are natural “pest” controllers and need a plentiful and varied supply of invertebrate prey to stay healthy.

Make water safe

Hedgehogs are great swimmers but can sometimes struggle to climb out of steep-sided ponds and many drown. Provide a ramp from a plank wrapped in chicken wire or create shallow areas at the edge so they can scramble out.

Provide nesting sites

Log and leaf piles, wilderness areas and purpose-built hedgehog homes make great places for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate. Fallen leaves also make the
perfect nesting material, so make sure you don’t clear all of these away.

Grow a wide variety of plants

Attract plenty of natural hedgehog food by keeping your garden diverse with a wide variety of habitats e.g. ponds, log piles, hedges, and a wide range of plant types. Don’t be afraid to let your grass grow a little wild and leave some leaf litter – as both are important homes for the hedgehog’s prey.

Be aware of dangers

Check for hidden hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, strimming and mowing the lawn. Keep plant netting, tennis nets and household rubbish above ground level to prevent entanglement.

Take action if you find a hedgehog

If you find a hedgehog and it is out during the day, wobbly, very small (late autumn especially) and/or is a hoglet/baby, and have any concerns, please give Prickles and Paws a call for advice on 07926576164.

Our Environmental Records Centre (ERCCIS) encourages anyone to submit wildlife records, whatever your experience and no matter how common or widespread the species. If you see a hedgehog (at any time and in any condition) please consider adding a record of it. Sign up and submit a recording on the ORKs (Online Recording Kernow and Scilly) service.

Hedgehog education

© Simon Stuart-Miller

What we are doing: Operation Hedgehog

To reverse the rapid decline, Cornwall Wildlife Trust is leading Operation Hedgehog, a coordinated effort to take hedgehog-saving, county-wide action

Who is involved?

Operation Hedgehog is being delivered in partnership with Cornwall Mammal Group, Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue and the University of Exeter.

What are the aims?

We will...

  • identify the whereabouts and sizes of hedgehog populations through initiatives such as expert and citizen science surveys
  • educate and work with land managers, developers and policy makers to protect hedgehogs when planning new developments
  • support volunteer community groups to spread the word and build homes for hedgehogs

How can you help?

To coordinate hedgehog-saving action across the county and ensure these activities are effective, we need your help. Right now, the best action you can take is to donate to our Hedgehog Appeal. It takes less than two minutes and will enable us to begin taking the steps required to reverse this decline.

Donate to the hedgehog appeal

Your contribution will make a difference

Find out more about the Hedgehog Appeal

hedgehog numbers have halved in countryside locations in the last 20 years. Furthermore, when considering populations across the UK, hedgehog numbers have declined by 2/3 in the past two decades.

They need our help. It’s a desperate situation and one that can only be solved by this generation.

Find out more

Tom Marshall