The Latin word for hedgehogs is Erinaceus and our own British hedgehog is scientifically known as Erinaceus europaeus; it is the same species that occurs throughout most of the continent of Europe.
In Britain it is found almost everywhere except some of the Scottish Islands, but tends to be scarce or absent from wet areas and pine forests. Uplands and mountainsides are not popular, probably because they lack both suitable food and suitable nesting places.
Hedgehogs are well established in our urban habitat and can, somewhat surprisingly, survive very well in our cities, making extremely good use of cemeteries, railway land, wasteland and both public and private gardens.
Everyone is sure to know what a hedgehog looks like. The hedgehog’s back and sides are covered in 25 mm (1”) long spines (which are really modified hairs). These are absent from the face, chest, belly, throat and legs which are covered with a coarse, grey-brown fur. There are approximately 5,000/7,000 spines on an average adult hedgehog. What many people do not know is that a hedgehog has a small tail.
Hedgehogs are certainly noisy eaters as people who have encountered these animals ‘at table’ will testify; but what do they actually eat?
Beetles are a major food item along with caterpillars and earthworms. Most people are aware that hedgehogs are basically insect eaters.
However, many householders put out a saucer of meat based pet food for their garden friends. The hedgehog will treat this as a welcome supplement to its normal diet and will not go hungry if, for some reason, the food is not put out. Always ensure that a dish of water is available especially during the summer months or in extreme weather conditions.
At the risk of disappointing some people, it is worth mentioning the fact that hedgehogs tend to ‘do the rounds’ and visit several gardens within an area. Ten or more different individuals may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean that ‘your hedgehog’ is in fact a number of different individuals visiting at different times.
Not all hedgehogs hibernate if the weather is mild & food plentiful. For those that do, they will often wake up during mild periods to search for food that often isn't there. They will use up valuable & limited fat reserves but you can help by making sure that there is always a plate of cat biscuits and a fresh and shallow dish of drinking water available.
Most hedgehogs manage well with ONE back leg amputation BUT cannot survive with both back legs amputated. Front leg amputation is not an option as they are unable to dig for food & will not survive in the wild. All amputees are monitored closely before release.
Baby hedgehogs (hoglets) can be born at any time of year. A pregnant female can carry her pregnancy throughout hibernation & complete it after hibernation