Hedgehog (©Tom Marshall)

©Tom Marshall

European hedgehog

Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus
A gardener's best friend, the European hedgehog will happily hoover up those pesky slugs. Famously covered in spines, this small insectivore mostly comes out at night and hibernates over winter.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 15-30cm
Tail: 1-2cm
Weight: up to 2kg
Average lifespan: 2-3 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

April to October

About

Round, brown and famously covered in spines, the European hedgehog (often just referred to as 'hedgehog') is one of the UK's most familiar wild mammals. It is most commonly spotted in parks and gardens, where bushes and hedges provide the perfect daytime getaway, and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk. Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, birds' eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend. Hedgehogs hibernate over winter, from about November to April, in a nest of leaves or logs called a 'hibernaculum'.

How to identify

A unique and unmistakeable animal, the hedgehog is small, brown and round, with yellow-tipped spines over its back, and a fur-covered face. Mostly nocturnal, you may see or hear one snuffling around the garden. Or look out for the signs of hedgehogs, such as medium-sized, black droppings full of insect bits on the lawn.

Distribution

Widespread, found throughout the country in a variety of habitats, except for on the Channel Islands and some Scottish Islands.

Did you know?

Hedgehogs are known for their ability to roll themselves into a ball of spines when threatened. These spines are actually modified hairs and the average hedgehog has about 16,000 of them, which can be raised using powerful muscles along their back.

How people can help

If you have a hedgehog in the garden, you can help it out by putting down a little cat food and leaving a pile of leaves or logs for it to hibernate under. Also, don't forget to check your bonfire before you light it! Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden wildlife by providing food, water and shelter. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk. To buy bird and animal food, feeders and homes, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm which donates up to 5% of the value of every sales order.