Catching and Handling of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog (Mammal Husbandry & Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Hedgehogs: Health & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords The information on this page should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Catching and Handling which contains background information relevant to all wildlife casualties.

This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" and "Hedgehogs: Health & Management" Wildpro volumes, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog

Before performing any clinical technique, the associated legal and ethical considerations should be consulted, knowledge of the potential complications/ limitations/ risk should be gained, and the level of expertise and qualification required must be ascertained.


  • Hedgehogs are one of the simplest wildlife casualties to capture because of their passive defence strategy, rolling into a stationary ball.
  • Hedgehogs may be caught and picked up by hand.
  • Wearing of gloves (latex, garden, leather) is always recommended when catching or handling hedgehogs because of the risks of zoonotic infection and puncture wounds from the spines.
  • A towel or similar cloth may be thrown over the hedgehog before picking it up.(V.w45)
  • Tools and equipment which may often be useful when attempting rescue and catching of a hedgehog casualty include a towel, stout gloves, scissors and wire cutters.
  • Hedgehogs cannot be removed backwards from a small space because of the spines sticking out and preventing this. It is necessary to ease the hedgehog out in a forwards direction. (V.w56)
  • If a hedgehog become tightly caught within a vertical drain or similar small solid vertical hole, and there is no other way to get it out (i.e. the hole cannot be enlarged by digging):
    • If a rough-surfaced cloth is placed down one side of the drain, anchored at the top, it may allow the hedgehog to climb out without additional help. It is important to secure the cloth so that it does not fall into the hole. (V.w45)
    •  It may be possible to remove the hedgehog by carefully clamping two pairs of blunt 'bull-nosed' pliers at the base of spines over two separate areas of the body and gently lifting the animal. (B151) Excessive force should not be used and advice from experienced personnel is advised if in doubt. 
    • (For further information See: Drains, holes and ditches - Garden Design for Hedgehogs (West European Hedgehog))


  • A variety of methods have been suggested to encourage a hedgehog to relax and unroll:
  • Hedgehogs are most likely to unroll on a non-slip surface.
  • Avoid all sudden noises and movements.
  • Avoid accidentally touching the face or whiskers.(B284.6.w6)
  • May unroll if left undisturbed for a while on a non-slip surface in a quiet environment.(B150.w1)
    • Warmth and darkness may be required as well - try leaving in a warm box on a heat pad, with bedding over the hedgehog. (V.w56)
    • Once the hedgehog unrolls, place your hand flat on its back to discourage it from rolling up again; it should then be possible to roll it gently to one side to see the underside on first one side and then the other side. (V.w56)
  • May unroll if gently stroked over the back with firm and even pressure from the crown of the head towards the rump.(J15.21.w1, B150.w1, B291.12.w12, V.w26); gloves or a towel can be used as preferred.(J15.21.w1)
  • May unroll if [gently and carefully] bounced in the hands.(B156.7.w7)
  • If held head-down over a flat surface, may try to unroll and reach the surface.(B150.w1)
    • Once the head and forelimbs begin to unroll, the hind limbs may be grasped and lifted.
    • The forelimbs should be left on a surface so that the hedgehog is in a "handstand" position; this allows the ventral surface (underside) of the hedgehog to be briefly examined.
  • Alternatively, gently shuffling and bouncing the hedgehog in the hands can encourage it to uncurl. The front quarters can then be lifted to briefly see the underside.(B254.14.w14)
  • Placing hedgehogs in shallow water has been suggested as a method for encouraging them to uncurl but is not recommended because of the risks of fluid inhalation or exacerbation of chilling.(B284.6.w6, V.w26)
  • It has been reported that tame hedgehogs can be lifted gently and briefly by their scruff, before they curl into a ball. (B150.w1) 
    • Small hedgehogs can also be carefully and gently scruffed to prevent them rolling up.(B284.6.w6)
    • Care should be taken to avoid injury to the handler or undue stress to the hedgehog using this technique.(V.w26)
    • It may not be possible to scruff a hedgehog which wishes to roll up. (V.w56)
  • Physical examination of the hedgehog is an important part of the assessment of all casualty and orphan hedgehogs and may also be performed as part of a pre-release assessment process, in research or translocation studies.
  • General anaesthesia is required for examination if the hedgehog cannot be unrolled. (J15.21.w1, B156.7.w7)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation, and timing of treatments and cleaning out, to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
  • Handling without sedation may be used when no painful procedures are to be carried out and if the hedgehog co-operates sufficiently to allow adequate access for the required procedure (physical examination etc.).
  • Avoid sudden noises while handling, as hedgehog tends to roll up into a ball on hearing such noises. (B156.7.w7)
  • When first disturbed, hedgehogs may make huffing noises or cough and move suddenly in jerky motions.(J15.21.w1, V.w26)
  • It is recommended that gloves are worn whilst handling hedgehogs to reduce the chances of transmission of zoonotic infections (e.g. Salmonellosis and Hedgehog ringworm)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Hedgehogs generally roll into a protective ball when touched.
  • Although it is rare, hedgehogs may bite occasionally and bite wounds can become infected.(J15.21.w1, B123, B255.5.w5)
    • Biting is most likely if the hedgehog is in pain. (V.w56)
  • Punctures from spines may become septic. (J15.21.w1)
  • Hedgehog ringworm may be transmitted to humans by direct contact. (J15.21.w1)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Suitable gloves, according to personal preference.
  • Scissors, wire cutters and pliers, as necessary.
  • Appropriate drugs if chemical restraint is required.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Hedgehogs are not difficult to handle, although experience may assist in encouraging individuals to unroll.
Cost/ Availability
  • Towels, suitable gloves, scissors, wire cutters etc. are widely available and not expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26)
Referee Debra Bourne (V.w5), Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Kay Bullen (V.w45); Dru Burdon (V.w56)
References B16.13.w13, B150.w1, B123, B151, B156.7.w7, B254.14.w14, B255.5.w5, B284.6.w6, B291.12.w12, J15.21.w1, V.w26, V.w45, W5.Jan01

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