The hedgehog is so-called because it roots through hedges and other undergrowth in search of slugs, snails, insects, worms, centipedes etc and makes a pig-like grunts.
The hedgehog is a nocturnal mammal. It comes out at night and spends the day sleeping in a nest.
The diet of a hedgehog has claimed it the reputation as being the ‘gardener’s friend’ as it includes so many ‘pests’. Hedgehogs are most active on nights after heavy rainfall when they eat slugs, snails, beetles and earthworms.
When hunting hedgehogs rely mostly on hearing and smell because they have very weak eyesight. Their long snout helps them forage for food.
Hedgehog predators include badgers, foxes, pine martins and stoats. Cats and dogs are sources of harassment. A hedgehog house can provide a safe retreat.
Their coats have about 5000 spines. Each spine lasts about a year then drops out and a replacement grows.
The spines are hollow and springy with a flexible neck and they are erected by muscles. At the base there is a smooth ball which bends on impact.
Hedgehog fleas are specific to hedgehogs and rarely bite humans.
Hedgehogs only pair up only to mate. When they mate they often make loud snuffling noises. The male circles the female, sometimes for hours, to persuade her to mate. They will separate thereafter and the male takes no part in rearing the family.
Hedgehog young only stay with their mother for four to seven weeks. After about 4 weeks, the mother will take the young on their first foraging trip and after 10 days the young are able to hunt for themselves and the family will separate.
Hedgehogs are born blind after 32 days and their spines are soft. However a late litter born in September seldom survive their first winter.Hedgehogs in the UK hibernate throughout winter. They feed as much as possible during the autumn and in around October.
During hibernation a hedgehog’s body temperature and heart beat fall dramatically, from 190 to about 20 beats per minute.
Signs that you’ve had a hedgehog visit include trails in the dew of long grass, forage burrows in soft earth and the presence of their black slug-shaped droppings in the grass.