Taxonomic name: Erinaceus europaeus Linnaeus 1758
Common names: brown-breasted hedgehog (English), erizo (Spanish), Europäischer Igel (German), European hedgehog (English), herisson (French), igel (German), igelkott (Swedish), riccio (Italian), western European hedgehog (English)
Organism type: mammal
Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) threaten native invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and ground-nesting bird nests through predation. In areas where hedgehogs have been introduced, they also compete with native insectivores. Hedgehogs are native to Western Europe and have been introduced to New Zealand and to island groups within their native range where they did not naturally occur.
Small brownish nocturnal mammal (adults 600-1500g) with a distinctive coat of spines covering the back and crown of the head. The front paws are powerful and adapted for digging while the hid paws are long and narrow. Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) typically roll into a ball when disturbed, this is enabled by a powerful dorsal muscle called the musculus orbicularis. Overall they are darker in appearance than E. concolor which usually has a white patch of fur over its chest. Droppings are cylindrical in shape, about 30-50mm long and often contain insect exoskeleton fragments. They are stained dark green by bile and are pointed at one end (Jones and Sanders 2005).
agricultural areas, coastland, natural forests, range/grasslands, ruderal/disturbed, scrub/shrublands, urban areas, wetlands
Prefer dry well drained sites for nests. Hibernates during extended cold weather (e.g. winter, or when mean ground temperatures reach 10-11 degrees C). Males emerge from, and enter hibernation earlier than females. New Zealand lacks natural predators such as large owls, badgers and foxes and has milder winters than Europe, which contributes to a longer breeding season and better yearly survival.
Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) prey on invertebrates and small vertebrates such as lizards and bird eggs and chicks. Hedgehogs are known to eat large amounts of individual prey types meaning they can have significant impacts on small localised populations of prey items (Jones et al. 2005). Female hedgehogs were three times more likely to have eaten lizards than males in a New Zealand study (Jones et al. 2005). In the Uist group shorebird numbers declined by 39% in areas where hedgehogs are present between 1983 and 2000 (Jackson et al. 2004). Up to 60% of nests of some wader species on South Uist were destroyed by hedgehogs in the 1996 and 1997 breeding seasons (Jackson and Green, 2000). Hedgehogs may act as vectors for some human and stock diseases. However, they are unable to maintain a reservoir for bovine Tb and most diseases and parasites are host specific (Jones and Sanders, 2005). Hedgehogs are known to compete with native insectivores, such as the kiwi in New Zealand (where competition for nest sites is also an issue) and two shrew species in Germany (Jones and Sanders, 2005; Guntram G. Meier, pers.comm 2006).
Native range: Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) are native to western and parts of northern Europe.
Known introduced range: Hedgehogs have only been successfully introduced in the wild in New Zealand, where thay have invaded all but alpine habitats. They are more rare in very frosty or wet habitats.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Biological control: Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) were introduced to Western Isles in Scotland, UK to control slugs and snails in gardens
Local dispersal methods
Acclimatisation societies (local):
Intentional release: Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) were released to control pests
Natural dispersal (local):
Erinaceus europaeus (hedgehogs) are often caught as by-catch in many predator control programmes throughout New Zealand without apparently reducing long term population numbers. May be less susceptible to poisoning than other mammals. Cameron et al. (2002) investigated which trapping variables led to increased hedgehog catch success in New Zealand braided river ecosystems. They found that most hedgehogs were caught on pathways and on river terraces. Highest success rates were recorded whan the trap plate was hazed with vegetation rather than left bare or covered with substrate. Please follow this link to view details of the Doc trapping system setting guidelines for Doc 150 and Doc 250. Doc 150 and Doc 250 have passed ‘draft’ NAWAC (National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee) guidelines as humane kill traps for stoats, rats and hedgehogs.
In the Uist group in Scotland hedgehogs are live captured using a variety of methods (spot-lamping, live-trapping and searcing with dogs) and then released on the mainland (SNH, 2008). Animal rights activists in the UK have prevented lethal control methods being used to remove hedgehogs from these important areas for breeding wading birds.
Invertebrates dominate the hedgehogs diet, especially beetles and caterpillars which appear to contribute most to dietary energy. It has been estimated that hedgehogs can eat around 160g of invertebrates per day. Otherwise, hedgehog diet is varied, and can depend on local conditions and prey availablity, indicating an opportunistic feeding behaviour (Jones and Sanders, 2005). This doesn't mean they are unselective in their diet as certain prey species are prefered over other equally abundant species. For example, one hedgehog stomach examined in New Zealand contained over 283 weta (Hemiandrus) legs (Jones et al. 2005). They also are known to eat bird eggs and chicks, carrion, and small reptiles and frogs (Jones and Sanders, 2005).
Placental. Sexual. Completely promiscuous, one female may mate with five or more males. Female hedgehogs have a succession of oestrus cycles throughout the breeding season. No postpartum oestrus (Jones and Sanders, 2005).
Gestation period of 35 +/- 4 days. At 3-4 weeks old the young first explore outside the nest. At 5-6 weeks old they become fully weaned and independent. Average life expectancy in the wild is about 3-4 years (6-8 years max.) (Jones and Sanders, 2005).
Compiled by: IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group
Updates with support from the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP) project XOT603, a joint project with the Cayman Islands Government - Department of Environment
Last Modified: Wednesday, 15 September 2010