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CONSERVATION / PEST STATUS - Editorial Comment

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

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE: The West European hedgehog is not considered to have any global conservation problems. In Britain recent data from road kills, compared to data gathered previously, indicated that there may be a decline in the population, particularly in some areas. 

GENERAL LEGISLATION: There is some legal protection under the Bern convention (Appendix III), and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Schedule 6)

CITES LISTING: Not listed.

RED-DATA LIST STATUS: Not listed.

THREATS: Threats to hedgehogs include modern farming practices and over-tidying of parks, with associated loss of favourable edge habitat, use of pesticides particularly insecticides and molluscicides, traffic and locally badgers. Individual hedgehogs are at risk from many manmade hazards including bonfires, garden forks, strimmers, steep sided ponds etc. See: Garden Management for Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) for further information on man-made hazards and mitigation.

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS: Hedgehogs predate eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds. In the past this has led to persecution from gamekeepers although losses of gamebirds to hedgehog predation are minor. More recently, introduced hedgehogs have been implicated as threats to ground-nesting birds such as waders on British islands and in New Zealand.

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: Hedgehogs are sometimes kept as pets. Historically they have been maintained in laboratory colonies for experimental work e.g. on the physiology of hibernation, and on diseases.

TRADE AND USE: Trade in this species is minimal.

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Wild Population - Importance

Source Information The hedgehog is not considered to have any global conservation problems. In Britain recent data from road kills, compared to data gathered previously, indicated that there may be a decline in the population, particularly in some areas. 
  • No serious global conservation problems.(B143)
  • In Britain: native, locally common. Pre-breeding population estimate of approximately 1,555,000, including 1,100,000 in England, 310,000 in Scotland, 145,000 in Wales. Population estimate was "based on a very limited amount of information for the species" although additional knowledge "may not necessarily have made a substantial difference to the estimate".(B221)
  • Extrapolation of population density estimates from maps of national hedgehog distribution, attempting to account for potential variation in habitat type and thus species density, predict that the total census population in Britain may be approximately two million individuals. Given margin of error it is thought that maximal values are unlikely to exceed more than twice this value and observation of hedgehog casualties provides evidence that the total population exceeds 500,000 individuals.(B262.11.w11)
  • Available demographic population data is insufficient to conclude whether the hedgehog population in the UK is currently in decline. Whilst several anthropogenic threats to the hedgehog population exist (road traffic accidents, pollution, habitat loss), evidence to date suggests that hedgehogs may derive benefit from some degree of proximity to humans within suburban habitats.(B228.9.w9)
  • Although it may seem "inevitable that hedgehog numbers have declined in the past few decades" it is difficult to find evidence for confirmation.(B262.12.w12)
  • Reliable census data for hedgehog populations is difficult to obtain. Hedgehogs occupy overlapping home ranges and have differential population densities according to habitat type making estimates difficult.(B254.28.w28)
  • Although historical records of game keeper activity include numbers of hedgehogs taken per unit time, analysis of this data to suggest trends in population size are not possible because the 'effort' (i.e. number of game keepers or traps set) required to catch those hedgehogs may vary between years and cannot be accounted for.(B254.28.w28)
  • Results of a recent (2001) survey based on numbers of hedgehogs seen dead on roads in Britain found that numbers of hedgehogs seen was lower in most areas of Britain when compared with data from 1991 and in some areas there were large decreases (approximately half of 1991 numbers). The figures were considered likely to represent a real decline in numbers and possibly a large drop in some areas. (D102)
  • Possibly declining regionally in the UK. (B341.3.w3)

(B143, B221, B228.9.w9, B254.28.w28, B262.11.w11, B262.12.w12, B341.3.w3, D102)

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General Legislation
Source Information There is some legal protection under the Bern convention (Appendix III), and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Schedule 6)
  • Bern convention, Appendix III. (B143)
  • Partial protection on Schedule 6 of Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (B142). Licence required for trapping. (B142)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 6 (Animals which may not be killed or taken by certain methods) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)

(B142, B143, W5.Oct01)

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CITES Listing

Source Information Not listed. [02Aug2002] (W354.Aug02.w1)

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Red-Data List Status

Source Information Not listed. [02Aug2002] (W354.Aug02.w1)

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Threats

Source Information Threats to hedgehogs include modern farming practices and over-tidying of parks, with associated loss of favourable edge habitat, use of pesticides particularly insecticides and molluscicides, traffic and locally badgers. Individual hedgehogs are at risk from many manmade hazards including bonfires, garden forks, strimmers, steep pond sides etc. See: Garden Management for Hedgehogs (West European Hedgehog) for further information on man-made hazards and mitigation.
  • Over the last twenty years concern has been raised as to a possible decline in the population of the West European Hedgehog - Erinaceus europaeus. (B285.w1)
  • Mortality of hedgehogs during hibernation is an important factor, particularly for first year individuals. (B142, B143)
  • Starvation during hibernation is thought to be the most important cause of mortality in the hedgehog, particularly those in their first year. (B143)
  • Large scale conversion of grass pasture land to arable crop farming over the last half century has reduced available suitable hedgehog habitat. Use of agrochemical insecticides and molluscicides to target crop pests also kills the invertebrate prey of the hedgehog. Frequent cultivation of crops reduces soil invertebrate prey and interrupts ground cover. Removal of hedgerows and areas of waste land reduces availability of suitable 'winter nest' sites. Increase of farm size and trend towards monoculture crops has reduced suitable hedgehog habitat; increased production of 'set aside' land in the future may help. (B254.28.w28, B261, B262.12.w12)
  • Loss of favourable "edge habitat" has occurred with the removal of small areas of fragmented forestry and hedgerows with agricultural intensification leading to local decline in hedgehog populations. An increase in creation of nature areas and set aside may help to redress these changes. (P35.4.w4)
  • The negative impact of urban and suburban development is likely to be less significant for hedgehogs than for other wild mammals since these habitats provide suitable nest sites and food, often supplied by people.(B254.28.w28)
  • Management of parks for amenity use, with an emphasis on tidiness, clearance of undergrowth etc., eliminates habitat which would otherwise be suitable for hedgehogs. (V.w57)
  • Hedgehogs are particularly vulnerable to road traffic injury since their prime method of defence of rolling into a ball offers little protection. (B262.12.w12, B285.w1) 
  • Estimates of the total number of hedgehog casualties lost to road traffic accidents vary widely but probably lie between 50,000 and 100,000 per year. (B262.12.w12) 
  • It is estimated that approximately half of all hedgehog deaths not related to hibernation are as a result of road traffic accidents. (B285.w1)
  • It has been suggested that landscape management techniques may have a more significant effect on the local survival probability of hedgehog populations than the role of road traffic mortalities. (P35.4.w4)
  • Investigation of the demography and seasonality of hedgehog road traffic accident victims (n=187 individuals) in north-west Europe found that: (P35.3.w14)
  • A study of hedgehog road kill in Italy found increases in the number of deaths during May / June and a second peak in October; these peaks corresponded to the time of first and late litters and the demographic profile showed them to comprise a significant percentage of young (P35.4.w5)
  • Whilst hedgehogs are frequently killed in road traffic accidents, it is very difficult to conclude whether this has a significant impact on the hedgehog population as a whole. 
    • Personal interpretation following frequent observation of hedgehog traffic victims may conclude that collisions must pose a significant threat to the population or alternatively may consider that the high number of carcasses observed suggest a large local population. 
    • Studies of marked hedgehogs have not found that high numbers of hedgehogs are lost to traffic accidents. 
    • Analyses of road traffic casualty counts (per length of road and per season) are complicated by seasonal variation in traffic density making conclusions problematic.
    • Surveys of road traffic casualties has shown that the largest numbers of hedgehogs are killed between April and May and that approximately two thirds of these casualties were boars. This suggests that the peak losses are related to increased activity during the breeding season.
    (B254.30.w30) 
    • Authors cite evidence from studies in Germany that road kill may lead to extinction of small and isolated hedgehog populations. (B262.12.w12)
    • Road traffic accidents may lead to locally reduced hedgehog population density. (B143)
    • Hedgehogs may be more reluctant to attempt to traverse large multiple carriageways than minor roads. In this way, development of the motorway network may help with the road casualty problem but is likely to lead to population fragmentation and its associated risks. (B262.12.w12)
  • Habitat fragmentation as a result of the construction of road networks has been suggested to be a potentially important factor. (B285.w1)
  • It has been suggested that traffic intensity and road density may have been responsible for population extinctions in local areas which were already of low density.(P35.4.w4)
  • Volunteer surveys of the location of hedgehog traffic victims were performed over extensive areas (514.5 km length of road with 942 hedgehog deaths reported) in the Netherlands. Data analysis was used to identify positive and negative aspects of the local environment and road design that affected the likelihood of hedgehog road accident victims. 
    • The barrier effect of a road was increased in wide compared with narrow roads.
    • Hedgehog casualties were found less commonly on wide than narrow roads.
    • Street lighting increased the barrier effect of a road.
    • Hedgehog casualties are more common on roads which run through preferred areas of habitat (e.g. forests, (sub)urban habitat) compared with less ideal habitats (e.g. agricultural area, salt marsh, sand dunes, arable land, heathland).
    • Proximity of favourable habitat to roads had a significant impact on the number of hedgehog casualties; where forest, hedgerow, trees are present next to a road the number of hedgehog deaths was found to be 36-47% greater that when these habitats were over 100 metres from the road.
    • If favourable habitats are positioned parallel to a road, the number of hedgehog victims is lower than if the habitat is orientated perpendicular to the road.
    • (P35.3.w1)
  • A volunteer questionnaire survey of road users in Lithuania was performed to collate data on hedgehog road traffic accident victims. A total of 153 hedgehog deaths over an area of 11159 km were reported. Extrapolation of data was used to estimate total road kill of between 12600- 25000 hedgehogs in Lithuania.
    • Hedgehog kills were found to be more frequent in favourable habitats (e.g. shrubland, meadows, pasture) than in less preferred areas (e.g. arable land, marshes).
    • (P35.3.w3)
  • Assessment of the effects of road construction on local wildlife movement, including that of hedgehogs, should be made in environmental impact assessments where possible.
    • Radio-tracking surveys of hedgehogs were performed in Sweden monitoring the effects of highway construction on the local population and the benefits of creating wildlife passages and ecoducts.(P35.3.w2)
    • Construction of an animal proof fence was recommended following a Lithuanian hedgehog road kill survey.(P35.3.w3)
    • Studies were performed on hedgehog movement before and after the construction of a highway and ecoduct in Sweden.(P35.4.w7)
  • Mammals Trust UK recently organised the National Hedgehog Survey in which almost 6000 volunteers took part. Monitoring road kills was practised and over almost 100000 miles were surveyed across the UK, from the Highlands to the Thames Valley. More than 800 foxes and badgers, 5000 rabbits and 2600 hedgehogs were spotted during the three-month survey.
  • Hedgehogs' predation of the eggs and chicks of ground-nesting game birds (pheasants and partridges (Phasianidae - Grouse, Turkeys, Pheasants, Partridges, etc. (Family)) has lead to their persecution by gamekeepers. Historically gamekeepers were given a bounty for each hedgehog killed but the numbers killed have reduced significantly in recent years. Nevertheless it is estimated that between 5000-10000 hedgehogs are still killed each year by game keepers. Further reduction in numbers of game keepers, alterations of their practice and species protection through legislation are likely to further reduce persecution in the future. (B254.28.w28)
  • Hedgehogs killed by game keepers are commonly taken in traps set to catch other species e.g. stoats (Mustela erminea - Stoat (Species)) and brown rats (Rattus norvegicus - Brown rat (Species)). (B260.9.w9, B262.12.w12)
  • However studies have suggested that their absolute impact may be small, being responsible for only 2-3% of lost clutches in one survey. (B254.13.w13, B260.4.w4) Losses due to crows, magpies, foxes and agricultural machinery have far exceeded losses attributable to hedgehogs in a number of surveys. (B228.3.w3, B260.4.w4, B262.12.w12)
  • An early study of pheasant nest predation showed that hedgehogs were responsible for only 1.3% of losses in sharp contrast with 34% attributable to foxes, approximately 30% due to use of agricultural activity and others due to cat and dog predation. (B254.28.w28)
  • Data cited from the National Game Census report that the number of hedgehogs killed by game keepers has reduced by some 4.6% each year between 1961 and 1984. However interpretation of this trend is problematic; it could account for a real decline in species population but may also reflect the reduction in numbers of game keepers and reluctance to report hedgehogs killed since the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 was introduced. (B262.12.w12)
  • Hedgehogs were historically classified as 'official vermin' from 1566 until 1863. Church wardens at this time were responsible for administering payment of two or three pence for hedgehogs killed within their parish. (B260.9.w9, B262.12.w12)
  • Historically hedgehogs were used as a food source, primarily by gypsy communities. (B142, B254.32.w32, B260.9.w9, B262.12.w12) 
    • Animals with large fat reserves prior to hibernation were considered particularly attractive. (B254.32.w32, P35.4.w2)
    • In Europe, the "uneatable dog hedgehog" and "eatable swine hedgehog" were described (P35.4.w2)
    • Hedgehog meat has been eaten by many cultures historically except the Jews. (P35.4.w2)
  • Dried hedgehog skins with their sharp and durable spines were used historically as a brush; as tools to card wool prior to spinning ; as defensive measures to prevent access to property at gate posts in a similar manner to modern-day barbed wire; as helmets for warriors; as an aid to encourage weaning by attaching to the muzzle of the calf or the udder of the dam. (B254.32.w32, B260.9.w9, P35.4.w2)
  • Other human-related causes of death include injuries from lawn mowers, incineration in garden bonfires, pesticides and drowning in garden ponds. (B142)
  • Different parts of the hedgehog have been used as traditional healing remedies against a variety of medical conditions historically. (P35.4.w1)
    • The meat was used for cure of infectious diseases.
    • The spines were used for treatment of dental disease.
    • The fat was used for treatment of wounds and swellings.

    (P35.4.w2)

(B142, B143, B228.3.w3, B254.13.w13, B254.28.w28, B254.32.w32, B260.4.w4, B260.9.w9, B261, B262.12.w12, B285.w1, P35.3.w1, P35.3.w2, P35.3.w3, P35.3.w14, P35.4.w1, P35.4.w2, P35.4.w4, P35.4.w5, P35.4.w7)

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Pest Status / Pest Populations

Source Information Hedgehogs predate eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds. In the past this has led to persecution from gamekeepers although losses of gamebirds to hedgehog predation is minor. More recently introduced hedgehogs have been implicated as threats to ground-nesting birds such as waders on British islands and in New Zealand.
  • Hedgehogs predate the eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds including gulls, terns (Laridae - Skuas, Terns, Gulls, Puffins, Auks (Family), game birds (pheasants and partridges (Phasianidae - Grouse, Turkeys, Pheasants, Partridges, etc. (Family)), pipits (Anthus (Genus)) and skylarks (Alauda (Genus)). (B254.13.w13, B254.29.w29, B260.4.w4, B262.7.w7)  This has lead to persecution of the hedgehog by gamekeepers to protect managed game bird populations (B228.3.w3). However studies have suggested that their absolute impact may be small, being responsible for only 2-3% of lost clutches in one survey. (B254.13.w13, B260.4.w4) Losses due to crows, foxes and agricultural machinery have far exceeded losses attributable to hedgehogs in a number of surveys. (J180.21.w1, B228.3.w3, B260.4.w4) 
    • Losses from hedgehogs on estates were only about 1.3%, compared with 33.8% ascribed to foxes. (J46.1935.w1)
  • The introduced hedgehog population on the island of North Ronaldsay has been implicated in the poor breeding success of certain ground nesting species (Sterna paradisaea - Arctic tern, Charadrius hiaticula - Common ringed plover). Multi-factorial causation for the decline in bird populations is likely and the relative importance of hedgehog predation is unclear but "may not have been negligible". (B228.3.w3)
  • The potential threat to the populations of breeding waders from hedgehogs introduced to the islands of North and South Uist and Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, are of current concern. (B228.3.w3) 
    • Hedgehogs introduced onto South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, have been calculated to predate as many as 60% of the nests of some waders (Charadriidae - Oystercatchers, Avocets, Lapwings (Family)) in machair habitat. It was noted that the eggs did not form an important percentage of the diet of hedgehogs (only 0.7-5.5% of the dietary energy needs), therefore abundance of hedgehogs was unlikely to decrease as wader populations declined. It was considered likely that without action being taken hedgehogs would cause local extinctions of (internationally important) wader populations. (J17.93.w1)
    • Fencing to prevent egg predation by hedgehogs resulted in nest success 2.4 times greater than in areas outside the fencing for waders (Charadriidae - Oystercatchers, Avocets, Lapwings (Family)) on South Uist in the Western Isles, Scotland. (J182.38.w1)
  • In New Zealand recent studies have indicated that hedgehogs may kill significant numbers of ground-nesting birds and be responsible for considerable egg predation at some sites. At one site eradication of hedgehogs in combination with control of other mammalian predators produced a three-fold increase in the number of eggs of ground-nesting birds producing fledglings. (J190.31.w1)
  • Altricial nestlings (e.g. larks) may be more vulnerable to predation by hedgehogs for a longer period than precocial species (e.g. pheasant). (B228.3.w3)
  • Further research is required using detailed field signs to elucidate the relative importance of hedgehogs as predators on bird eggs and chicks and their potential impact on avian populations. (B228.3.w3)

(B228.3.w3, B254.13.w13, B254.29.w29, B260.4.w4, B262.7.w7, J17.93.w1, J46.1935.w1, J180.21.w1, J182.38.w1, J190.31.w1)

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Captive Populations

Source Information Hedgehogs are sometimes kept as pets. Historically they have been maintained in laboratory colonies for experimental work, e.g. the physiology of hibernation, and on diseases.
  • Hedgehogs have been used as experimental models to investigate the physiology of hibernation.(B260.5.w5, B260.9.w9)
  • Species has been used for experimental work on viruses including foot-and-mouth disease, influenza and yellow fever.(B142)
  • Hedgehogs are sometimes kept as pets.(B142)

(B142, B260.5.w5, B260.9.w9)

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Trade and Use

Source Information Trade in this species is minimal.
  • The potential role of hedgehogs as a bio-indicator for environmental contamination (lead, mercury) and in environmental impact assessment has been investigated in northern Italy.(P35.3.w21)
  • In ancient Elamic culture the hedgehog was revered as an enemy of the snake.(P35.4.w2)

(P35.3.w21, P35.4.w2)

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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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