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< > DISTRIBUTION & MOVEMENT with literature reports for the West European Hedgehog: Use sub-contents list below, or simply scroll down the page to view findings.


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

NATIVE DISTRIBUTION: This hedgehog is found in western and northern Europe and northern European Russia. Populations have expanded as far north as 66N in Finland, and south to the northern coast of the Mediterranean. The eastern range is to about 40E and overlaps with that of Erinaceus concolor - East European hedgehog. In Britain and Ireland hedgehogs are found extensively, including on many islands. Hedgehogs are basically sedentary.

INTRODUCTIONS: Hedgehogs have been introduced to many British islands and to New Zealand, where they have been very successful. In some introduced areas they may represent a threat to native ground-nesting bird species by predation (particularly on eggs).

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Native Distribution

Source Information
  • Western and northern Europe and northern European Russia: South-western and central Scandinavia (introduced Finland), Britain, Ireland, Iberian peninsula to Italy, western Slovenia, central and western Austria, western Poland, northern Baltics east to Urals, also Mediterranean Islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Elba, Sicily, most French Atlantic Islands and British Islands. (B51, B142, B143, B147)
  • Population ranges from a southern limit at the Mediterranean coast to a northern limit in southern Scandinavia and Finland (B254.3.w3, B261); the western population extreme is in Spain with the eastern limit in Russia.(B262.5.w5); range includes "Ireland, UK, southern Scandinavia and the rest of western Europe".(B228.1.w1)
  • Western Europe eastwards to the head of the Adriatic and to about 18E in Poland; in Norway and Sweden northwards to about 65N on the coasts, Finland northwards to 66N and north-west European Russia eastwards to at least 40E. It probably does not occur eastwards of 50E. The northern expansion in Finland is recent and may have been human-assisted. There is an area of overlap with Erinaceus concolor - East European hedgehog in eastern Europe (J82.18.w1)
  • In Europe, from 63N south to the north coast of the Mediterranean. (B258.w4)
  • The northern limit of the species' geographical distribution occurs at approximately 60N latitude which corresponds to the furthest limit of deciduous trees in these countries.(B254.3.w3, B260.5.w5)
  • Species range expansion has occurred northward into Scandinavia in the 1900s.(B147)
  • In Finland the range of the hedgehog has been moving north; this is thought to be related to interactions with human habitation and actual transport of hedgehogs by humans. Data collected indicated clearly a northward movement by 1965 compared with previous data (J201.102.w1) and a further northward movement between 1965 and 1975. (J201.209.w1)
  • In Britain and Ireland hedgehogs are found throughout the mainland, up to the level of the tree line. (B142)
  • Hedgehog populations are present in both the Isle of Man and Ireland. (B254.4.w4, B262.5.w5)
  • Hedgehogs are present in a number of islands around Britain, either naturally or introduced. For some islands, namely Skye, Soay, Coll, Mull, Luing, Arran, Bute, Man, Angelsey, Wight, Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey and Beginish, it has not been confirmed that they were introduce by man although it is likely that this is the case on at least some of these islands. (B142)
  • The species range for the West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and the Eastern European hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor - East European hedgehog) overlap slightly, particularly in the Czech Republic.(B228.1.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)

(B51, B142, B143, B147, B228.1.w1, B228.4.w4, B254.3.w3, B254.4.w4,  B254.28.w28, B258.w4, B261, B262.5.w5, B262.11.w11)

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Accidental and Naturally Introduced

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  • Introduced to New Zealand's South Island in the late nineteenth century, North Island early in the twentieth century, and is now widespread. (J82.18.w1)
  • Hedgehogs from the UK were deliberately introduced into New Zealand in the mid 1800's in an effort to control insect pests causing damage to pasture (B51, B52, B142, B262.5.w5); the introductions were performed by settlers from Britain who wanted to introduce familiar species (B254.3.w3); a series of introductions were performed from 1870.(B228.1.w1)
  • The population in New Zealand has increased significantly with high population densities currently present in " lowland areas, irrigated pasture, suburban areas and other human-made habitats but they are scarce or absent in arid or permanently damp places such as wet native forest".(B228.1.w1)
  • Hedgehogs are present in a number of islands around Britain, either naturally or introduced. These include "Shetland Mainland*, Unst*, Yell*, Fetlar*, Muckle Roe*, Bressay*, Whalsay*, E Burra*, W Burra*, Vementry*, Orkney Mainland*, N Ronaldsay*, Skye, Soay, Canna*, Coll, Mull, Luing, Arran, Bute, Man, Angelsey, Wight, Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, Beginish." Of these islands, confirmed introductions are marked with an asterisk, although others are likely to have been introduced by man also.(B142) [Introduction has also taken place to other islands, such as the Uists, Outer Hebrides, Scotland: see below]
  • Hedgehogs are thought to have been introduced to Ireland in Norman times.(B261)
  • In the 1970's and 1980's hedgehogs were introduced onto North Ronaldsay, Sark and St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly.(B262.5.w5)
  • Hedgehog populations on some of the Mediterranean islands are probably present as a result of introduction.(B261)
  • The introduced population of hedgehogs on Alderney comprise a high proportion of blond individuals (approximately 25%), thought to be due to high degree of inbreeding in the descendants from the small founder population.(B262.5.w5)
  • Hedgehogs have been introduced to the islands of North and South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.(B228.3.w3)
  • Hedgehog populations on many of the offshore British islands (Orkney, Scotland, Jersey, Isle of Wight) are likely to have arisen following introduction. (B254.4.w4, B261)
    • These introductions need not have been deliberate; since hedgehogs hide in vegetation during the day it is likely that they be accidentally translocated by human activity along with building materials, animal food or fuel from time to time over the last few thousand years.(B254.4.w4)
  • The hedgehog population on North Ronaldsay is believed to be descendants of a pair introduced in 1972. The population rapidly increased to in excess of a thousand individuals by the mid-1980's but subsequently declined to approximately 100 individuals in the mid-1990's.(B228.3.w3)
  • Hedgehogs have been introduced to a number of Scottish islands, the Isles of Scilly and Channel islands. These introductions may have been accidental or deliberate for pest control or perceived benefit as a novel species.(B262.5.w5)
  • Introduction of hedgehogs to the island of North Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands, has been at the "expense of nesting sea birds."(B261)
  • Introduction of hedgehogs into islands risks potential damage to ground nesting birds populations.(B262.5.w5)
  • Introduction of hedgehogs into the Uists, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, has been linked to a rapid decline in local populations of breeding waders.
    • The machair grassland and marshland habitats house important populations of breeding waders (approximately 17000 pairs in 1983).
    • Current hedgehog population estimates are between 5000-10000 individuals.
    • Over recent years since the introduction of hedgehogs, populations of redshank (Tringa totanus - Common redshank), snipe (Gallinago gallinago - Common snipe, ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula - Common ringed plover) and dunlin (Calidris alpina - Dunlin) have reduced by over 50%.
    • The decrease in the wading bird population has been attributed to poor breeding success.
    • Egg predation by hedgehogs has been investigated using the characteristic appearance of the egg remains and temperature detectors showing that eggs were taken more frequently at night indicating a nocturnal predator.
    • It is estimated that hedgehogs are responsible for approximately 50% of all nest failures for redshank, dunlin, snipe on the islands.
    • Modelling studies have predicted that hedgehog egg predation could be sufficient to have resulted in the current decline in wading bid populations. However the importance of egg predation by the common gull should be noted.
    • The preliminary findings of a model created to investigate the effects of hedgehog density, foraging behaviour, and habitat selection on wading bird egg predation suggest that "hedgehogs will probably cause the extinction of machair breeding dunlin, and much reduced populations of redshank and dunlin".


    • Extensive discussion is currently underway regarding suggestions for intervention with these hedgehog populations. Consideration of a local cull or capture and translocation scheme are underway. (V.w26)

(B51, B52, B142, B228.1.w1, B228.3.w3, B254.4.w4, B261B262.5.w5, P35.3.w10, V.w26)

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Authors & Referees

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

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