Hedgehog (©Tom Marshall)

©Tom Marshall

European hedgehog

Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus
A gardener's best friend, the European hedgehog will happily hoover up those pesky slugs. Famously covered in spines, this small omnivore mostly comes out at night and hibernates over winter.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 15-30cm
Tail: 1-2cm
Weight: up to 2kg
Average lifespan: 2-3 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

April to October

About

Round, brown and famously covered in spines, the European hedgehog (often just referred to as 'hedgehog') is one of the UK's most familiar wild mammals. It is most commonly spotted in parks and gardens, where bushes and hedges provide the perfect daytime getaway, and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk.

Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, birds' eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend. Hedgehogs hibernate over winter, from about November to April, in a nest of leaves or logs called a 'hibernaculum'.

How to identify

A unique and unmistakeable animal, the hedgehog is small, brown and round, with yellow-tipped spines over its back, and a fur-covered face. Mostly nocturnal, you may see or hear one snuffling around the garden. Or look out for the signs of hedgehogs, such as medium-sized, black droppings full of insect bits on the lawn.

In our area

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.

Find out more

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. Your contribution to the £25,000 target will make a difference.

Donate now

Distribution

Widespread, found throughout the country in a variety of habitats, though absent from some Scottish Islands. A large proportion of the hedgehogs on Alderney are blonde!

Did you know?

Hedgehogs are known for their ability to roll themselves into a ball of spines when threatened. These spines are actually modified hairs and the average hedgehog has about 7000 of them, which can be raised using powerful muscles along their back.