European hedgehog

The gardener’s best friend, as they will eat up insect pests crawling in the vegetable beds

Michael Gäbler

A quintessential symbol of the British countryside and gardens across Europe. This creature, adorned with up to 6000 spines, navigates its habitat with a blend of caution and curiosity. The spines, which are essentially modified hairs made of keratin, are hollow and measure between 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) in length. These spines serve as the hedgehog’s primary defense mechanism, allowing it to roll into a tight ball and present a formidable barrier against predators. The European hedgehog’s tail is markedly short, almost vestigial, further emphasizing the spine’s role in its survival strategy.

The European hedgehog boasts a wide distribution, thriving in a variety of environments, including forests, farmlands, suburban gardens, and even urban parks. This adaptability has made them a familiar sight in many settings, contributing to their role in popular culture and the human imagination. Their diet is impressively diverse, encompassing a broad range of invertebrates such as beetles, ants, bees, wasps, earwigs, moths, and butterflies. This voracious appetite for garden pests has endeared the European hedgehog to many, highlighting its importance in natural pest control. Additionally, they consume bird eggs and amphibians, showcasing their opportunistic feeding habits.

A remarkable aspect of the European hedgehog’s life cycle is its hibernation behavior. As cold weather approaches, these creatures prepare for winter by building nests from leaves, often situated under sheds, log piles or dense vegetation. These nests serve as a refuge from the cold, where hedgehogs enter a state of hibernation, significantly reducing their metabolic rate to conserve energy during scarce food months. This adaptation is crucial for their survival through the winter, allowing them to emerge in the spring ready to continue their cycle of feeding and breeding.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Austria
2016
Belgium
2016
Croatia
2016
Czechia
2016
Denmark
2016
Estonia
2016
Finland
2016
France
2016
Germany
2016
Ireland
2016
Italy
2016
Latvia
2016
Luxembourg
2016
Netherlands
2016
Norway
2016
Poland
2016
Portugal
2016
Russia
2016
Slovenia
2016
Spain
2016
Sweden
2016
Switzerland
2016
United Kingdom
2016

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No