A hedgehog is a spiny mammal that has become famous for its prickly spines and ability to roll into a tight ball to utilise its sharp spines as protection from other creatures in the wild.
The scientific name for a hedgehog is Erinaceinae.
Hedgehogs are very small creatures, often measuring between 14-30 centimetres long which gives them the ability to fit through small gaps when walking around at night. Despite their small size, hedgehogs can travel up to two miles every night to find food or a sheltered spot...that's quite a distant for the small mammals.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and you'll often be able to spot them in your garden. With hedgehogs numbers on the decline, particularly in rural areas, they are a part of British wildlife that we must all do our best to protect them.
Across the UK, you'll find hedgehogs most commonly in gardens, parks and woodland edges. Hedgehogs live in a place they feel safe and by creating a welcoming habitat for them, you'll be helping to protect the special species.
Whether you build a hedgehog house (insert link to blog post) in your garden, or you simply prepare the nesting material such as log piles and fallen leaves, it's important we all do our bit to help hedgehogs live in a comfortable nest where they can hibernate whilst safe from other animals.
In the UK, hedgehogs live for an average of two to three years, however can live up to 10 years. In fact, the oldest recorded wild hedgehog lived for 16 years...what an impressive life!
By protecting wildlife and providing a place of shelter and a food source in the winter months, we can help look after hedgehogs to live as long and happy life as possible.
Baby Hedgehogs and breeding
Baby hedgehogs, known as hoglets, tend to be born during June and July, the months that are known as Hoglet season. Some litters of hoglets are also born during the autumn in September or October before the yearly cold snap.
A typical litter of hoglets is four to five, with a maximum of seven babies. Unfortunately, due to a lack of food and predators, including badgers and even other hedgehogs, attacking the hoglets, only slightly over half of the litter successfully weaned and leave the nest. It's a six week process with the mum looking after the hoglets before releasing them independently into the wild.
Hedgehogs are born blind and are very tiny, weighing only 25grams on average.
Female hedgehogs are pregnant for an average of 32 days before welcoming their young into the world.
When do Hedgehogs hibernate?
Hedgehogs tend to hibernate for four to five months, from October/November through to early spring in March/April. If the UK experiences a warmer winter, hedgehogs can be seen by humans as late as December.
Despite common beliefs that a hedgehog is asleep during hibernation, they are actually in a state or torpor. This means that they have dropped their body temperature to match their surroundings. This is why hedgehogs like to hibernate in a shelter that is cosy and warm, such as a hedgehog house with a thick layer of protection so that they do not need to drop their body heat quite as much.
During the hibernation months, you will often find hedgehogs hibernating in a nest in long grass or compost heaps.
Whilst hibernating, it's really important that a hedgehog is not disturbed as this will use the vital energy that hedgehogs need in order to survive hibernation.
What do Hedgehogs eat?
Hedgehogs love to eat insects and eat a variety of foods including earthworms, caterpillars, beetles, snails, slugs, earwigs and even fallen birds eggs when they can get their hands on them.
Believe it or not, hedgehogs also love the food we typically feed our household pets. Hedgehogs love dog and cat food so leaving out a plate will attract the amazing species to your garden, and provide a great food source for the beloved mammals.
To survive hibernation throughout the winter, a hedgehog must fill up and eat as much food as they can in order to prepare for the hibernation period.
When can you see Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are nocturnal so only come out at night and will often spend the evening travelling through gardens. By leaving out some food and creating a good place to nest, you'll be increasing your chances of spotting a hedgehog.
Remember that hedgehogs hibernate throughout the winter months so you're more likely to spot the species throughout the spring and summer months.
The hedgehogs species has many predators including ground nesting birds, badgers, foxes, snakes and weasels.
The spines on the hedgehog, also known as quills, can raise and lower to respond to threatening situations such as badger predation. The average hedgehog has between 5,000 and 7,000 spines to protect them.
In addition to their spines being spiky, hedgehogs also produce a saliva that they smear on their quills. The saliva repels parasites and makes the quills taste horrible in order to make hedgehog an unattractive meal choice for predators.
How to attract Hedgehogs into your garden
Gardens provide great habitats for many species of British wildlife, in particular the hedgehog, even in urban areas.
Attracting a hedgehog to your garden is fairly easy and can be done in just a few simple steps:
Create a hedgehog hole in your garden fence to provide an easy walk-through for hedgehogs travelling.
Leave out a plate of hedgehog food such as dog or cat food.
Create a hedgehog house in order to create a safe spot for hedgehogs to eat and hibernate. If you can attract insects such as beetles to the spot, you're even more likely to entice a hedgehog or two.
Five facts about hedgehogs (three facts if you can’t find 5!)
Hedgehogs are naturally lactose intolerant so it's important to remember not to leave dairy products such as milk or cheese lying around outside.
The mammals have very poor eyesight so rely on their hearing and smell to find their way round.
The conservation status of hedgehogs is partially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
Did you know that Hedgehogs are closely related to moles and shrews.
Hedgehogs eat approximately 8% of their bodyweight every night in order to survive.
Here at The Awesome Wildlife Company we're doing all we can to help companies and individuals support wildlife in any way they can.
Whether that be by assisting with ideas and advice on attracting European hedgehog into your garden or supporting local charities with equipment for shows and demonstrations.
If you are a registered charity and are interested in supporting more local wildlife please do get in touch and we will do all we can to help. We're planning to donate a large number of hedgehog homes and foods in the coming months and years in order to help this species thrive!