Common name: hedgehog

Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus

Family: Erinaceidae

Habitat: hedgerows, woodland edges, parks, gardens

Diet: invertebrates

Predators: badgers and occasionally foxes

Origin: native

What do hedgehogs look like?

Hedgehogs are 20–25cm long and typically weigh up to 1.2kg. They have a distinctive waddling gait and are covered in characteristic brown spines. They have long snouts and no spines on their underbellies, faces or limbs.

Credit: Veronica Carter / Alamy Stock Photo

What do hedgehogs eat?

Invertebrates are a hedgehog’s favoured food, with beetles, earwigs, earthworms and caterpillars high on the menu. Occasionally, they also eat carrion and the eggs of ground-nesting birds. They’re very partial to food left out by humans too, with cat food and leftovers being an urban hedgehog staple.

Did you know?

Until the 1990s there was no set word for baby hedgehogs! The word ‘hoglet’ or even ‘hedgehoglet’ is now used colloquially.

How do hedgehogs breed?

Naturally solitary, hedgehogs only come together to mate, though a few might be attracted to a plentiful food source. Litters of three to seven will spend up to six weeks with their mother, before setting out on their own. They reach sexual maturity at around 12 months old.

Hedgehogs have been known to live for seven years, but a lifespan of two to three is more typical.

Did you know?

The Irish word for hedgehog is ‘gainneog’, which means ‘ugly little thing’. Harsh!

Credit: blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo

How do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs spend much of their life asleep, hibernating through the winter months in a nest made from fallen leaves in a sheltered spot. They emerge in spring but will spend the day sleeping, becoming active after the sun has gone down.

Where do hedgehogs live?

Hedgehogs are found across the UK and can live in a variety of habitats including woodland, farmland, parks and gardens.

Credit: Nick Upton /

Signs and spotting tips

Your best chance of seeing a hedgehog is by putting out some water and suitable food in your garden, such as wet cat food or our hedgehog food, and hope you are visited in the night. Hedgehogs are also surprisingly noisy, so listen out for their distinctive huffing and puffing sounds.

Threats and conservation

Sadly, the UK’s favourite spiky little mammal is in serious decline. While it is difficult to accurately monitor hedgehog numbers, it is believed they could be down by over half in rural areas and a third in urban areas since 2000.

Loss and damage of suitable habitat, such as hedgerows and woodland, may be a major factor in hedgehog decline, depriving the species of both food and shelter from badger predation. That’s why we stand up for woods and trees, and the biodiversity they bring.

The use of pesticides on farmland and in gardens may also have reduced the hedgehog’s food supply. In urban areas, the use of impermeable fencing, loss of greenery in gardens and increasing development is thought to be negatively impacting hedgehog populations too. Another threat is roads, with many thousands of hedgehogs killed by cars each year.

You can help hedgehogs by setting up a safe retreat or creating a hedgehog house in your garden and providing some hedgehog-friendly food and water. Make sure your garden is attractive to hedgehogs by leaving compost heaps, overgrown areas and log piles as they are. Then wait for these cute critters to pay you a visit!

Did you know?

It was once believed that hedgehogs stole milk straight from cows’ udders, but they are actually lactose intolerant – so don’t leave milk out for them!

Endangered wildlife appeal

Woodland wildlife is fading before our eyes. Please support our appeal to save rare and threatened species.

Donate now