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Gymnures and Hedgehogs: Erinaceidae

Western European Hedgehog (erinaceus Europaeus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Western European hedgehogs are round-to oval-shaped and mostly brown. Their most recognizable feature is the layer of light-yellow and brown spines on their backs. They have small, but noticeable rounded ears, fairly long snouts, and dark, beady eyes. Their body ranges from 9 to 11 inches (23 to 28 centimeters) long with short tails of 0.5 to 1.2 inches (1.5 to 3 centimeters) long. The adult weight can vary from 14 to 42 ounces (400 to 1,200 grams).

Geographic range: Western European hedgehogs are found in Western and central Europe from Scandinavia, northern European Russia, Britain and Ireland to Italy and the Mediterranean islands. A population introduced by humans in New Zealand is also thriving.

Habitat: People most frequently see western European hedgehogs in farmlands, parks and gardens, but the animals are also quite common in forests and meadows where they are less likely to encounter humans.

Diet: Active at night, these hedgehogs primarily eat insects, worms, spiders and other invertebrates, but they will also prey on eggs and The western European hedgehog eats mainly insects, spiders, and worms, which makes it a welcome visitor in most yards. (© Hans Reinhard/OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.) fruit. In captivity or when otherwise fed by humans, they will eat just about anything from dog food to bread.

Behavior and reproduction: They do not set up territories like some other insectivores, but adults still live alone. Those in cooler climates survive the winter by hibernating for four to seven months. Mating occurs from spring to summer, and females usually have four to six babies, although they sometimes have as few as two or as many as ten at a time. The babies are blind, naked, and helpless, and remain in the mother's nest for no more than six weeks, then they are pushed out to face the orld on their own.

Western European hedgehogs and people: Hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular as pets. Most human contact with the animals, however, comes from positive encounters in the yard. Homeowners generally welcome the hedgehogs, which have a taste for insects and spiders that homeowners view as pests.

Conservation status: Western European hedgehogs are not threatened. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsGymnures and Hedgehogs: Erinaceidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Gymnures, Hedgehogs, And People, Conservation Status, Western European Hedgehog (erinaceus Europaeus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET