Species: Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

Family: Hedgehogs and Moonrats (ERINACEIDAE)

Category: Mammals

Location: NW

A. Mammals

More extensive information on mammals can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Hedgehogs and Moonrats (ERINACEIDAE)

The Eurasian Hedgehogs are allied with the South East Asian Moonrats, and both groups have long snouts, short tails, and large eyes and ears. Most have 5 toes on each foot.

C. Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

The hedgehog, the county symbol of Herefordshire, is a predominantly nocturnal carnivore, terrestrial in woodland and grassland. It makes grunting and snuffling noises while foraging, and rolls into a ball if disturbed. Typically, a hedgehog will cover a large distance while foraging, so it is important to ensure that they can move easily from one garden to the next, by leaving or creating gaps in fencing. It makes a nest of dry leaves for hibernation (October - April) and rearing of young, usually under dense shrubbery such as bramble. On the footprint the claw marks are continuous with the five toe pads, although the thumb pad is rarely seen. Both palm pad and heel pads are visible. The droppings are long, shiny, black, and crinkly, smelling like linseed oil.

Hedgehogs were once believed to suck milk from cows during the night, whereas they are actually lactose intolerant, and were believed to be egg thieves. In 1566 a threepenny bounty was placed on the heads of hedgehogs by the English Parliament because of the belief they were witches in disguise. They have been said to collect apples and mushrooms on their spines to transport them to a secret store for the Winter, when in reality they use their bodily fat deposits to survive until Spring. Little Grey Rabbit's friend Fuzzypeg is of course a hedgehog, as was Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.

The Western Hedgehog is classed as having a "Red List GB Post 2001 VU (vulnerable)" conservation status. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species. It is also listed as a species of principal importance in the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006 Section 41, May 2014.


Western Hedgehog

This close-up is of one of the rescue hedgehogs we are looking after in Heene Cemetery. Sometimes we are offered rescued hedgehogs in the autumn, and we keep them in a pen for a while, feeding them in order to help them bulk up sufficiently in preparation for their winter hibernation, and habituating them to their new environment.

Western Hedgehog

A little nocturnal scurrying triggers one of the trail cameras and grabs a shot of a Western Hedgehog in action!

Western Hedgehog

Hedgehogs hibernate, as we all know. When we are lucky enough to be given rescue hedgehogs in the autumn, we keep them in a small enclosure to help them become accustomed to the area. In addition, we feed them up in order to try to ensure that their weight is at least 600g before we release them into the Cemetery. That is the target weight to aim for that indicates that they will be able to survive the long months of hibernation.

Western Hedgehog

Whilst being weighed - oh, such indignity - there's a photo-opportunity to catch a glimpse of a soft Hedgehog face protected by a rolled-up ring of spines.