Hedgehogs have been on the planet for over 15 million years and are said to be one of the oldest mammals. Hedgehogs are named after their "pig-like” habit of rooting through the undergrowth for food. They are quite noisy and can be heard snuffling and grunting during their activities.
Hedgehogs normally live up to five years in the wild but can reach eight years in captivity.
Latin name: Erinaceus Europaeus
Male: Boar Female: Sow Juveniles: Hoglets, Piglets
Their body length is normally 15-30 cm with a weight of up to 2kg.
The hedgehog is Britain's only spiny mammal.
The upper parts of the head and body are covered in short yellow-tipped spines - adults may have up to 5000 spines. The rest of the body is covered with brown fur and the hedgehog has a short tail.
European hedgehogs range from Scandinavia to Romania. They were introduced to New Zealand.
Their preferred habitats are forest, hedgerows, scrub, cultivated land and they are commonly found in gardens.
Males and females may share a nest for a short period during the breeding season. Females produce one or two litters a year of about five young. These are weaned after five weeks. The mother will just leave the nest and sometimes you will hear "piping" (a shrill noise) that the abandoned hoglets will make.
Hedgehogs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in Britain, and may not be trapped without a licence. Numbers are in decline due to habitat loss and slug pellets.
Hedgehogs are often killed by manmade hazards such as ponds, bonfires, roads, strimmers, lawnmowers, pesticides, garden netting and litter. They can also be food for foxes, pine martens, stoats and badgers.
In the summer, hedgehogs shelter during the day in temporary nests of leaves, moss and grass.
By autumn, hedgehogs have gained weight dramatically in preparation for their hibernation. Their hibernation nests are typically situated under hedgerows. They hibernate until the following March or April, during which time their body temperatures and heartbeats drop dramatically from 190 to about 20 beats per minute. Most hedgehog deaths occur during this hibernation period.
Their eyesight is poor but their sense of smell and hearing are very good and they can swim and climb well. Their dense covering of spines offers protection when the animal is disturbed, when they roll up into a tight ball covering the head and soft underside.