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BEHAVIOUR  - Editorial Comment

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

Only the mother is involved in rearing the offspring. Cannibalisation may occur if the boar is left with the sow in captivity. The sow may eat her offspring if disturbed soon after birth (the first few days); after this time disturbance is more likely to result in the sow moving the hoglets to a new nest site. Sows will retrieve youngsters in response to their shrill piping to about four weeks old, and will actively defend her litter if threatened. The sow and her offspring remain together until the hoglets are about five or six weeks old.

Further information on reproduction is provided in West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Life Stages (Literature Reports)

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Parental Behaviour

Source Information
  • The sow has been reported to remain in the birth nest for the first 24 hour period following parturition.(B228.8.w8)
  • The mother typically forages during the night and suckles her litter during the day.(B228.8.w8)
  • The sow "toilets" her nestlings, stimulating their urination and defecation by licking their perineum and external genitalia.(B228.8.w8)
  • Boars do not exhibit any form of parental care and the pair separate soon after copulation.(B142, B228.8.w8, B260.6.w6, B261, B262.10.w10)
  • If the sow and boar are artificially confined together during parturition, the boar may cannibalise his offspring.(B228.8.w8)
  • As parturition approaches and begins, hedgehog sows become particularly sensitive to disturbance which can lead to neonatal desertion, infanticide or cause the mother to eat her offspring.(B228.8.w8, B254.15.w15)
  • Observational reports of hedgehog parturition are few; births monitored in captivity have been associated with maternal cannibalism of young.(B228.8.w8)
  • From five days of age, hedgehog sows are less likely to eat or desert their litter if disturbed and usually attempt to move them to a new nest area instead.(B142, B228.8.w8, B254.15.w15, B260.6.w6) The sow grasps the hoglets within her mouth via their scruff to move them at a young age and will drag them via their spines as they grow.(B228.8.w8, B260.6.w6)
  • Losses from disturbance are reduced once the hoglets reach 5-7 days old. (J23.6.w1)
  • Hoglets will produce a shrill piping vocalisation if they become separated from the sow. In response, the sow will retrieve her youngsters until they are approximately four weeks of age.(B228.8.w8)
  • The sow will physically defend her litter, biting and producing hissing sounds.(B228.8.w8)
  • The hoglets first begin to forage outside the nest from approximately one month of age. They remain with the sow for a further week and then disperse.(B262.10.w10, B254.14.w14)
  • Sows will often accept extra hoglets to suckle and foster-rear if they are approximately the same size as her own babies. (J23.6.w1)

(B142, B228.8.w8, B254.14.w14, B254.15.w15, B260.6.w6, B261, B262.10.w10)

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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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