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< > SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR / TERRITORIALITY / PREDATION / LEARNING with literature reports for the West European Hedgehog: Use sub-contents list below, or simply scroll down the page to view findings.

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BEHAVIOUR - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment (Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog)

Hedgehogs have home ranges which remain relatively constant between years. The size of the home range may vary considerably between habitat types but adult males consistently have a home range larger than that of females or sub-adults in the same habitat type. The distance travelled per night is longer for adult males than for females or sub-adults (about 900 m for males, 600 m for females in a forest edge habitat and about 1.5 kg for males, 1 km for females on a suburban golf course). This may be related to mating behaviour. Individuals may sometimes travel as far as 3-4 km in one night. Speeds of as high as 60 m/min and 120 m/min have been recorded but slower progress (about 2-4 m/min) is more usual.

Home ranges of both females and males may overlap considerably with those of several other individuals. Aggressive interactions between hedgehogs are rare; mutual avoidance appears to be normal. Juveniles disperse in their first months of independent life, either before or after their first hibernation. Population densities vary with habitat type. Individuals may return to the same nest on consecutive nights or after a period of absence. Occasionally a nest will be used by first one and then another individual. Nest sharing (more than one hedgehog in the same nest at the same time) has been recorded only rarely in the wild, although it is relatively common in captivity. Hedgehogs are able to navigate well (e.g. returning to the same nest); it is likely that olfactory and auditory cues are most important although vision may play a role. (The detailed Literature Reports also include information on Methods of Marking and Following Hedgehogs)

The provision of supplemental food appears not to affect the home range size or general behaviour of hedgehogs.

The initial reactions of a hedgehog to danger include erecting their spines and if time permits running away from danger. However the main defence of hedgehogs in the face of a serous threat, particularly a disturbance involving physical contact, is to roll into a tight ball with spines bristling in all directions. Other defensive actions include hissing, screaming and (rarely, for example a female defending her young) biting. (Further information on the curling mechanism is provided in West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Detailed Physiology Notes (Literature Reports))

Hedgehogs possess a considerable protection against most predators of small mammals, in the form of their spines. However they are predated by badgers (Eurasian badger - Meles meles), foxes (Red fox - Vulpes vulpes), dogs, pine martens (Pine marten - Martes martes), polecats (Polecat - Mustela putorius) and large birds of prey. Rats may prey on juveniles. Badgers appear to be important predators and the population size of hedgehogs in areas with large badger populations may approach zero; foxes may also affect hedgehog population size. When in deep hibernation hedgehogs may be vulnerable to being gnawed on by small rodents.

Hedgehogs have relatively small brains but they are capable of highly flexible behaviour patterns and some individuals have been shown able to learn to distinguish between shapes and colours, and to respond to their name.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Home Ranges and Distances Travelled

Source Information
  • Hedgehogs will typically travel over a few hundred metres up to approximately one kilometre per night (particularly sows and non-breeding boars, with longer distances for males); however individuals may cover greater distances of up to three or four kilometres on occasion. (B228.4.w4)
  • Travel 0.5-1.5 km per night, or up to 3 km for males, using 2-5 hectares or approximately 12 hectares respectively. Smaller distances and areas are covered in forest-edge habitat. (B142) Males move up to 3 km / 1.9 miles per night, females 1 km / 0.6 miles. (B52)
  • Home range: 4.5-6.3 acres/1.8-2.5 hectares (B144); males 50 hectares, females nearer 10 hectares (B142);  average 32 hectares male, 10 hectares females, with at least 33 individuals within an area of 40 hectares in one study (B147); males 20-35 hectares / 50-87 acres, females 9-15 hectares / 22-37 acres. (B52)
  • In a forest edge habitat tracking of two females and one male over a total of 33 hedgehog-nights showed that females moved a mean of 625 metres per night compared to 868 metres for the male. The size of the area used each night was also larger for the male than for either female. It was noted that both the distance travelled per night and the total range size used by each hedgehog were smaller that those recorded for hedgehogs in a more open (golf course) habitat. (J187.50.w1)
  • In an area of "traditional farmland" (a mosaic of hedgerows, small copses and unimproved grassland, plus associated village), radio tracking studies showed that an adult male moved further per night and over a larger area than did either a parous female or young adult males. (J46.214.w1)
  • On a suburban golf course males travelled a mean distance of 1690 metres per night, females 1006 m and sub-adults 1188 m. The greatest distances travelled in a night were 2828 m for a male and 2116 m for a female (a sub-adult). (P17.49.w1)
  • Radio-tracking and observational data found that the average maximum radius of the distance hedgehogs travelled per night was significantly smaller in an urban (Zurich, Switzerland) rather than a rural habitat. (P35.3.w4)
  • Boars typically travel over greater distances per night than sows with approximate distances of 2-3 km per night and 0.5-1 km per night respectively; this is thought to be related to the male travelling over larger areas for mate acquisition. (B262.8.w8)
  • Hedgehogs usually travel 0.5-1.5 km per night, or up to 3 km for males, using 2-5 hectares or approximately 12 hectares respectively. (B142)
  • Young hedgehogs move shorter distances per night than adults, with no significant variation between sexes. (B262.9.w9)
  • Considerable variation in values of minimum nightly distance travelled and range areas are found between hedgehogs and for individuals on different evenings. (B228.4.w4)
  • Minimum feeding ranges for hedgehogs may increase at times of restricted food availability, increased energetic demand and mate location during the breeding season. (B228.4.w4)
  • The home ranges of hedgehogs often overlap partially or completely with other individuals of the same or opposite sex (B142, B228.4.w4); the home range of a boar often overlaps with that of several sows. (B228.4.w4, B260.3.w3, B262.9.w9)
  • Radio-tracking data has shown that boars typically have larger home ranges, travel further distances per night and at greater speed than sows. (B228.4.w4)
  • On a suburban golf course home ranges calculated using the Minimum Area Method (MAM) were estimated as mean 32 hectares (range 15.5-41.5 ha) for adult males (based on six males), mean 10 ha (range 5.5-12.0 ha) for females (n=7) and 12 ha (range 10.0-15.0 ha) for sub-adults (n=3). There was a statistically significant difference in home range size between males and females (larger in males) but no such difference between females and sub-adults. (P17.49.w1)
  • Distances travelled per night for radio-tracked hedgehogs on a suburban golf course (on a straight line basis between fixes, minimum 20 fixes per night) averaged 1690 m for males (n=3, 14 nights of data), 1006 m for females (n=3, eight nights of data) and 1188 m for sub-adults (n=2, nine nights of data). Average speeds were calculated as 3.73 m/minute, 2.19 m/min and 2.17 m/min respectively. There were statistically significant differences between males and females but not between females and sub-adults, for both distance travelled and average speed. (P17.49.w1)
  • Home ranges estimates for average boars and sows are in the order of 20-30 and 10 hectares respectively. (B254.18.w18)
  • Annual home ranges are typically less than 40 hectares. (B285.w1)
  • Smaller home ranges are found in areas with rich and abundant resources such as food. (B285.w1)
  • Boars will typically remain within a 10 hectare area on an average evening but active individuals use home ranges of up to 50 hectares over the season. (B262.9.w9)
  • Estimates of the size of home ranges of hedgehogs in New Zealand have varied widely with mean home ranges as small as 1.9 or 2.3 hectares for juvenile males and as large as 94.0 hectares for adult males. Movement distances recorded include 10 km along a river between April and October for one individual and 12 km over 26 months for another (with 15/65 individuals moving more than five kilometres). It was recognised that comparisons between studies may be affected by both field methods and analytical methods, however it considered that the studies showed clearly that males typically have a home range 2-3 times that of females, and that for both males and females home ranges are smaller in autumn and winter than in spring and summer. (J190.31.w1)
  • In New Zealand, studies have shown that hedgehogs will share their home range with (on average) one to five other hedgehogs. Data from seven radiotracked males showed that their home ranges overlapped by an average of 36% while their core areas overlapped by an average of 27%. Their movements were considered to be essentially independent of one another. (J190.31.w1)
  • In New Zealand a study found that while most nests were used by only one individual one nest was used by two different individuals (at different times) while on one occasion two individuals were found both using the same nest at the same time. (J190.31.w1)
  • In the wild hedgehogs have rarely been found sharing a nest, although this is relatively common in captivity. (B254.18.w18)
  • In New Zealand pasture land hedgehog density was found to range from less than four animals per hectare to eight animals per hectare. (J208.20.w1)
  • Data suggests that the range of hedgehog boars is greater during the breeding season than when they are sexually inactive. This is presumed to be linked to boars searching for mate acquisition during the breeding season. (B228.4.w4)
  • Whilst hedgehog populations in New Zealand are at greater population density than in Europe, studies have shown no evidence of territoriality despite the potential for increased intraspecific competition. No observations of direct aggression have been reported despite highly overlapping home ranges within the New Zealand study areas. (B228.4.w4)
  • The distance that hedgehogs typically travel per night varies with habitat type and seems to be greater in open grassland as compared with towns, gardens and woodland areas (B262.9.w9); distance travelled and home range sizes are smaller in forest-edge habitat. (B142)
  • Hedgehogs do not appear to use regular pathways for moving around their home ranges, "except over short distances". (B262.9.w9)
  • Effect of supplemental food: Studies suggest that supplementary feeding of hedgehogs does not significantly alter the size of their home range. (J82.15.w1, B142)

(B52, B142, B147, B228.4.w4, B254.18.w18, B260.3.w3, B262.9.w9, B285.w1, J46.214.w1, J82.15.w1, J187.50.w1, J190.31.w1, P17.49.w1, P35.3.w4, V.w26)

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Dispersal, Territoriality and Population Densities

Source Information
  • Studies suggest that juvenile hedgehogs have a dispersal phase to find a new area for their adult home range. This time of dispersal occurs in the first few months of independent life, either before or after their first hibernation.(B228.4.w4)
  • Radio-tracking work in Norway found no difference in dispersal distance between male or female juvenile hedgehogs. (P35.3.w13, P35.4.w14)
    • Study of 25 juvenile hedgehogs from 25 litters in 1995 was performed for a period of one month.
    • Dispersal from the maternal nest occurred at 5 weeks of age.
    • The distance that the hedgehogs travelled from the natal nest increased with time from dispersal.
    • Average dispersal of 230 metres by 55 days of age.
    • All juveniles remained within the maternal home range at the end of the study period (i.e. 9 weeks age).(P35.4.w14)
  • Hedgehogs may use road verges as corridors for dispersal. (B285.w1)
  • Hedgehogs seem to remain resident within a general area for several years (B147, B228.4.w4, ): possibly for the duration of their entire adult lifespan. (B228.4.w4)
  • Hedgehogs are solitary with overlapping home ranges. (B341.3.w3)
  • Considerable overlap of home ranges, no evidence of territoriality. (B147)
  • Available evidence strongly supports that hedgehogs are not territorial (B228.4.w4, B262.9.w9, B285.w1) and do not defend their home range against con-specifics. (B228.4.w4)
  • Whilst hedgehogs do not appear to be territorial they do "often fight if they meet", suggesting they may defend their immediate surroundings from invasion by con-specifics. (B254.18.w18)
  • Field observation has shown no evidence of territorial defence behaviours when con-specifics meet, or boundary scent marking. (B228.4.w4)
  • Studies of a population on a suburban golf course showed that home ranges of both males and females overlapped considerably. (P17.49.w1)
  • Tracking the same individuals in successive years on a suburban golf course showed that animals remained in the same general area for periods of several years. (P17.49.w1)
  • Records of hedgehog population density vary according to geographic region and habitat type; values from Britain range between 0.23 - 0.83 individuals per hectare compared with greater densities in New Zealand of up to 2.5 individuals per hectare. (B228.9.w9)
  • Hedgehog population density in an intensively studied area of suburban golf course was found to be one individual per hectare on average. (B254.28.w28)
  • Relatively few studies have been performed to evaluate population density. General estimates are approximately one individual per hectare (equates to 4 hedgehogs per 10 acres) in "good hedgehog habitat". Population density is likely to be lower in less favourable habitat types. (B262.11.w11)
  • Effect of supplemental food: Studies have indicated that the regular, dependable provision of supplementary food does not appear to affect the social or territorial behaviour of hedgehogs. Although timid individuals would wait to visit a food bowl until no other hedgehogs were near while other individuals were more assertive, even the boldest animals showed no inclination to defend the bowl from others and no animal appeared to deliberately nest near to the bowl for rapid access on waking. (J82.15.w1)

(B147, B228.4.w4, B228.9.w9, B254.18.w18, B254.28.w28, B262.9.w9, B262.11.w11, B285.w1, B341.3.w3, J82.15.w1, P17.49.w1, P35.3.w4, P35.3.w13, P35.4.w14, V.w26)

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Methods of Marking and Following Hedgehogs

Source Information
  • Marking of small numbers of individual hedgehogs permits observation of individuals, for example of those visiting a feeding station and the social interactions between them. (B260.3.w3)
  • Whilst it may be possible to identify some hedgehogs through their individual characteristics, this is practically very difficult, particularly at night, and marking techniques are required for confidence in recognition. (B254.22.w22)
  • Some authors have recommended temporary visual markers for hedgehogs including small areas of quick drying paint applied with a brush or paint spray. Bright white or metallic paints are most clearly visible at night. However it is essential to avoid the face and ears of the animal, to ensure excessive areas are not covered, and to prevent areas of spines being stuck together with the marker. (B254.22.w22, B261)
    • Marking with paint has been shown to last for "several weeks at least" (B260.3.w3) and periods of up to six months. (B254.22.w22) However, hedgehogs may become particularly dirty, obscuring marker visibility from a distance. (B254.22.w22)
    • Quadrant (right shoulder, right rump, left shoulder, left rump) paint marking, or other developed schemes, can be used to enable identification of multiple individuals. (B254.22.w22)
    • Large painted numbers have been suggested as individual identification. (B260.3.w3)
  • Some authors have suggested clipping small areas of spines to allow individual identification. This procedure is painless and the mark may remain visible for as long as the following year after hibernation, although not in young animals where extra spine growth may obscure the mark. (B254.22.w22, B260.3.w3)
  • Marking of small numbers of individual hedgehogs permits observation of individuals, for example of those visiting a feeding station and the social interactions between them. (B260.3.w3)

(B254.22.w22, B260.3.w3, B261)

  • Spool-and-line tracking can be used to investigate habitat selection and foraging strategy of individual hedgehogs.
    • The pattern in which the line fell was useful in determining whether the hedgehog stopped in an area to forage (jumbled mass of thread on dung heaps rich in invertebrates) or travelled straight through (straight line of thread). (P35.4.w8)
    • The study concluded that spool-and-line technique was useful in providing a detailed path of hedgehog movements over a small area with more detailed information generated than from radio-tracking. However the length of the line limited the area over which the study could be performed, making investigation of home range sizes impossible. (P35.4.w8)
  • Marking-recapture surveys and techniques for tracking (e.g. line-and-spool, beta-lights, radio-telemetry) have been used to investigate the impact of the introduced hedgehog population on the resident wading bird populations in the Uists, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. (P35.3.w10)
  • Research into hedgehog movements and home ranges relies on mark-recapture and radio-tracking studies. (B228.4.w4)
  • Radio-tracking is difficult in suburban fragmented habitats because of signal distortion and problems with land access e.g. walls, private areas. (B254.18.w18)
  • Direct observation of hedgehogs during radio-tracking studies may not be possible when study animals enter areas of land which are restricted/ private access. In this instance, 'triangulated fixes' which are subject to error must be used. (B228.4.w4)
  • Radio-transmitter design must be appropriate for use in the hedgehog. Attachment of the transmitter using a collar or band design is not generally practical in this species since the neck and waist of the hedgehog are poorly defined and the small tail tapering in profile. (B228.4.w4)
  • Early radio-tracking studies used a flexible harness made of elastic or silicone rubber tubing to attach the transmitter to the hedgehog. Whilst the harness still allowed the animal to roll-up for defence, some constraint of their movement may have resulted. (B228.4.w4, B254.18.w18)
  • Recent radio-tracking studies have successfully used glue to secure transmitters to the spines of hedgehogs over their dorsum. (B228.4.w4, B254.18.w18)
  • Batteries designed for 'deaf-aids' have been used to supply power for transmitters and can be replaced via thread systems without the need to remove the unit from the hedgehog. (B254.18.w18)
  • Distance ranges for reception of signals during radio-tracking study range from 100 yards in early home made devices to 1000 yards in modern equipment. (B254.18.w18)
  • Transmitters should be designed to be of minimum mass. (B228.4.w4)
  • It can be relatively simple to make home-made transmitters for use with hedgehogs at minimal expense however receivers are more expensive. (B254.18.w18)
  • Transmission frequencies used for monitoring must be high to avoid interference with radio or police communication frequencies according to the Wireless and Telegraphy Act 1949. Special adaptation of normal transistor radios is required for reception of these frequency signals.(B254.18.w18)
  • The weight of transmitters used for surveys of hedgehogs in the literature range between 12 and 28 g for the majority, although use of devices between 30 and 40 g has been reported. [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
    • Modern batteries etc. have allowed a reduction in the weight of transmitters. (V.w57)
  • The electrical components of transmitters must be embedded in waterproof resin. (B228.4.w4)
  • [Editorial comment: The following points on transmitter design indicate the situation in 1994 with additional notes added indicating the progress which has been made in this area in the intervening years to 2004]:
    • Battery weight within the transmitter may be quite high in order to supply sufficient delivery and power. [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
    • A compromise exists between the design of transmitter aerials and potential adverse effects on the study animals. [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
      • 'Whip antennae' or 'trailing wires' may enable monitoring over a large range but may become entangled in vegetation, thereby restricting the hedgehog. [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
        • The designs of these has been improved; performance is better and tangling problems have been addressed. [2004 data](V.w57)
      • 'Integral aerials' (e.g. iron-dust rod) do not risk entanglement and "have no external connections to break or let in water, but may weigh more and perform less well than whips". [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
    • Future developments in transmitter design may lead to lighter unit weight, reduced power requirements and potential for remote telemetry of physiological variables (e.g. body temperature, heart rate). [1994 data](B228.4.w4)
      • Modern transmitters allow small battery size, higher performance than older designs and remote telemetry. [2004](V.w57)
  • Complete radiotracking tags, including battery and antenna, are now available down to weights as low as 0.35 g, while battery life available for lightweight tags is longer than it used to be. [2004 data](W492.Feb04.w1)
  • Consideration should be given to the possibility that carrying a transmitter may alter hedgehog behaviour, perhaps affecting results of a scientific study.(B228.4.w4)
  • Reports of complications associated with transmitter use in hedgehogs are infrequent; no effect on body condition in relation to transmitter use was noted in one study. However transmitters on individual study hedgehogs have become entangled in grass on two occasions.(B228.4.w4)
  • The frequency and level of disturbance of hedgehogs varies between radio-tracking studies.(B228.4.w4)
  • Temporary luminous transmitter tags detected from a distance by deep red torch light have been employed to minimise disturbance to study animals during tracking studies.(B228.4.w4)

(B228.4.w4, B254.18.w18, J82.15.w, P35.3.w5, P35.3.w10, P35.4.w8, W492.Feb04.w1, V.w57)

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Defensive Behaviour

Source Information Reactions to threats:
  • It is a mistake to assume that hedgehogs will roll up into a tight ball in response to any disturbance. Instead they may use a number of defensive behaviour patterns for safety before resorting to rolling into a ball. (B262.2.w2)
  • As an initial response to danger, hedgehogs simply erect their spines into an interlocking network. (B262.2.w2, B285.w1)
  • Hedgehogs may run to a safe area to escape danger if time permits. (B262.2.w2)
  • Some individuals vary as to how likely they are to roll into a ball and may be more inclined to make an escape by running where possible. (B254.8.w8)
  • If a threat is significant, the hedgehog will remain stationary and draw the spiny skin over its head, rump and tail using the actions of the fronto-dorsalis, caudo-dorsalis and caudo-abdominalis muscles respectively.
    • These movements occur at very high speed with the flexing of the head, under the control of the front-dorsalis muscle, occurring within 0.01 seconds. (B262.2.w2)
  • Hedgehogs will typically resort to rolling into a ball when disturbance involves physical contact.( B262.2.w2)
  • Hedgehogs can remain rolled into a ball for a period of hours with the orbicularis muscle contracted and retaining the position allowing other muscles to be relaxed. (B262.2.w2, B254.8.w8, B261)
  • Hedgehogs generally use their spines as a passive defense system. Nestlings and adults have however been reported to actively attack opponents or predators with their spines. (B262.2.w2)
  • When asleep in the nest, hedgehogs typically lay on their side in a semi-curled position with their head and limbs protruding but will react rapidly to disturbance by erecting their spines and rolling up completely. (B228.5.w5)

Other responses:

  • Vocalisations such as a 'hiss', 'huff', 'snort' and 'scream' may be used to distract a predator. (B262.2.w2)
  • Hedgehogs may rarely make a loud squealing noise "like a pig". (B261)
  • It is rare for hedgehogs to bite in defence. (B228.2.w2)
  • Hedgehogs may bite during con-specific fights. (B228.2.w2)
  • Hedgehogs will guard and defend their young with "hissing and biting" when threatened. (B228.2.w2)
  • Biting has been reported to occur most frequently in some individual tame hedgehogs but is rarely observed in wild animals. (B228.2.w2)

(B228.2.w2, B228.5.w5, B254.8.w8, B260.2.w2, B261, B262.2.w2, B285.w1)

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Interactions with the same Species

Source Information
  • Direct competitive interactions between conspecifics appear to be minimised by mechanisms for mutual avoidance which may involve odour cues, although no specific scent marking behaviour has been described. (B228.4.w4, P17.49.w1)
  • Whilst hedgehogs generally avoid conspecifics, they may feed together from food bowls in gardens. (B228.4.w4)
  • Hedgehogs are rarely seen to have direct contact except during courtship or at  localised food sources where fights may sometimes occur. (B228.4.w4)
  • Fights between hedgehogs are "extremely rare" (B228.4.w4); "rare". (B262.9.w9)
  • Hedgehogs, particularly boars, will "fight to establish a peck order". (B142)
  • Field data of 3460 behavioural records included only 17 non-sexual hedgehog interactions. These included only four instances of physical fighting (butting, biting), four cases with "snorting and flank to flank manoeuvring" in which all individuals were boars, interactions were short and no injuries resulted. Nine silent encounters were observed where individuals passed within a close distance of each other, "paused, sniffed the air and changed direction". (B228.4.w4)
  • Whilst hedgehogs are not thought to be territorial, intraspecific conflict with aggressive interactions occasionally occur where individuals butt into one another. (B260.2.w2)
  • Captive hedgehogs have been reported to develop a system of hierarchy when group housed but this is not seen in the wild. (B228.4.w4)

(B142, B228.4.w4, B260.2.w2, B262.9.w9, P17.49.w1)

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Interactions between Species

Source Information --

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Predation in the Wild

Source Information
  • Hedgehogs do not fill a significant proportion of the diet for any predatory wild animal species. (B262.12.w12)
  • Hedgehogs' spines protect them from predation by many species: this is a protection absent from most other small mammals. (B142, B254.25.w25)
  • Badgers will predate hedgehogs in the wild, particularly young hedgehogs who are unable to curl up into a very tight ball. (B262.12.w12)
  • Badgers can use their powerful forequarters to forcefully "rip into" hedgehogs. (B262.12.w12)
  • Badgers typically 'shell out' hedgehogs which they predate, leaving only a spiny shell. (B285.w1)
  • The increasing population of badgers in Britain are likely to take a significant number of hedgehogs as prey. (B262.12.w12) 
    • In some areas it is thought that this may account for local scarcity or absence of hedgehog populations. (B262.12.w12, B285.w1)
    • Recent research has shown that hedgehog density can be ten fold higher in areas where badgers are absent (2-3 per hectare) as opposed to where they are present ( less than 0.5 hedgehogs per hectare). (B285.w1)
    • In one study it was shown that badgers were responsible for a lack of hedgehogs in an area of apparently suitable habitat but with a high density badger population. Higher overall mortality was seen in hedgehogs transplanted into this area compared to a patch of similar habitat with a lower badger density; the difference in mortality was due to predation by badgers. Dispersal from the badger-rich area was also greater than dispersal from the area with a low badger density. (J179.249.w1)
    • A study showed that local variations in hedgehog abundance could be related to the presence of badgers and the availability of a food resource (earthworms). (J81.63.w1)
  • Whilst badgers, polecats and tawny owls "occasionally have a go at the odd hedgehog, they stand little chance of killing it except in the case of very young animals whose spines are thin and whose skin and rolling-up muscles are not fully developed". (B254.25.w25)
  • Young and sick hedgehogs are most commonly taken by dog, fox and badger predators. (B142)
  • Evidence exists to suggest that both badgers (Eurasian badger - Meles meles) and foxes (Red fox - Vulpes vulpes) can exert a significant impact on local hedgehog populations. Following the mange epidemic affecting foxes in the Bristol area, the numbers of hedgehogs was observed to increase significantly. It is thought most likely that foxes take the majority of hedgehogs while they are still in the nest. (W51.July2002.WEH2)
  • Occasional hedgehog predators include foxes, dogs, tawny owls (Tawny owl - Strix aluco), eagles and polecats (Polecat - Mustela putorius) (B142, B144, B260.7.w7, B262.12.w12, B285.w1); these species may also take hedgehogs as carrion from road kill. (B262.12.w12)
  • Hawks and large owls may prey on hedgehogs, their scaled feet penetrating the spines. (B258.w9)
  • Badgers, foxes and pine martens (Pine marten - Martes martes) are known to prey on hedgehogs; empty skins of hedgehogs are occasionally found in winter dens of polecats. (B258.w9)
  • Badgers (Eurasian badger - Meles meles), polecats (Polecat - Mustela putorius) and wild boar (Wild boar - Sus scrofa), also rats (Brown rat - Rattus norvegicus) may prey on juveniles. (B259.w9)
  • Eagle owls (Bubo (Genus)) are capable of preying on hedgehogs and their bones may be found within their cast pellets. (B269)
  • Substantial numbers of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) were taken by European eagle owls Bubo bubo (Bubo (Genus)) when rabbits were decimated by disease in an area of Alicante, southern Spain. (J198.142.w1)
  • Hedgehog remains have been seen in gastric contents and faeces of urban foxes. Whilst anecdotal reports describe foxes pushing hedgehogs into water, in order to make them more vulnerable to predation as they must uncurl, it is more likely that hedgehogs are scavenged by foxes as carrion from road kill. (B254.25.w25)
  • Birds of prey are not considered important predators of hedgehogs; in one survey, only 134/102000 pellets (about 0.1%) disgorged from large birds of prey contained hedgehog remains. (B255.10.w10)
  • It has been reported that stoats, weasels and rats may kill hedgehogs and even that magpies may attack hedgehogs. (B255.10.w10)
  • Martes martes - Pine Marten  is known to eat hedgehogs, with hedgehog remains found in 3/24 stomachs of this species in winter in one study in France. Of birds of prey, studies found hedgehogs to be 24% by weight of the diet of Bubo bubo - Eagle owls in North Bavaria, and about 1/3 of prey items for Aquila chrysaetos - Golden Eagle on the Swedish island Gotland during the breeding season. However the extent to which hedgehogs are taken as carrion versus predated alive is not known. (J82.18.w1)
  • In New Zealand, remains of hedgehogs have been found in the guts and/or scats of both ferrets and feral cats. Such remains were not found in 27 stoat (Mustela erminea - Stoat)) scats. (J190.31.w1)

During hibernation:

  • Observation on hedgehogs hibernating within a 30 m by 30 m enclosure found several individuals to have "cut spines" and wounds to the neck or back, sometimes severe (one was found dead outside the nest and in two others wounds were considered so severe as to warrant euthanasia). There were no signs of nests being damaged by birds and no footprints in the snow to indicate larger mammals; it was therefore suggested that small rodents gnawing at the hedgehogs were the most likely explanation. (J46.213.w1)

(B142, B144, B254.25.w25, B258.w9, B259.w9, B260.7.w7, B262.12.w12, B269, B285.w1, J46.213.w1, J179.249.w1, W51.July2002.WEH2)

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Nest Use

Source Information
  • In a study of two females and one male in forest edge habitat the females used fewer nests than the male and moved between nests less often. (J187.50.w1)
  • In an area of "traditional farmland" (a mosaic of hedgerows, small copses and unimproved grassland, plus associated village), radio tracking studies showed that an adult male used more nests than did an adult female and moved between nests more frequently. The nests used by the male were widely scattered over the area habitually used by this animal whereas the nests used by the female were much closer to one another. (J46.214.w1)
  • A study of summer nest use in a hedgehog population on a golf course showed that females tended to use a given nest for longer periods of time than did males, and used a smaller number of nests over a summer season, although in 52.4% of cases a nest was used for a single day before the animal moved; males used more nests in total and for shorter consecutive periods although they commonly returned to a previously-used nest after one or more days elsewhere, and in 65.4% of cases they used a nest for only a single day before moving. In this study males sometimes used nests which had previously been used by females and one instance was recorded in which a female used a nest which had previously been used by another female. It was noted that hedgehogs, at the end of a night, were observed to move directly to a nest which they had previously used, i.e. they remembered the location of the nest. (J187.49.w1)

(J46.214.w1, J187.49.w1, J187.50.w1)

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Intelligence and Learning

Source Information
  • While hedgehogs have small cerebral hemispheres, they are capable of flexible and highly individual behaviour patterns. Several researchers have made various attempts to train and tame individual hedgehogs and identified their ability for certain learned behaviours. (B228.2.w2) These include learned ability to distinguish between shapes and symbols and for individuals to respond to their names when called by their carers. (B254.11.w11, B258.w8)
  • Variation exists between hedgehogs with individual patterns of behaviour and personality. For instance marked variation is seen between hedgehogs in whether, and how quickly, different individuals become tame in captivity. (B254.11.w11)

(B228.2.w2, B254.11.w11, B258.w8)

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Authors & Referees

Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26); Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Nigel Reeve (V.w57)

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