Winter nests of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.)
An account is given of the winter nests of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.), and their importance in the life of this species.
Nests were constructed for protection during hibernation, in sites chosen for the degree of support gained from surrounding objects. They were usually made mainly of dry leaves, specially selected and carefully built into a robust weatherproof structure, by a method appropriate both to the hedgehog and the materials used. Construction of winter nests was closely correlated with environmental temperature.
The life history of hibernacula is reviewed and it is shown that nests may persist for well over a year, though the leaves of which they are made normally decay completely in a much shorter time. Nests built in brambles, with plenty of support last longer than those in less preferred sites.
The construction of winter nests was strictly seasonal, but their decay was gradual, with rapid deterioration at the end of the winter. About 30% of nests persisted till the following winter, though were not re-occupied.
Over half of the nests built were occupied for one month or less, though some were in continuous use for up to six months. New nests were built even in midwinter, but the likelihood of their being occupied immediately was affected by the weather. Hedgehogs rarely shared a nest, though empty nests were sometimes taken over by small mammals or Hymenoptera.
Most hedgehogs that died in their nests during winter were juveniles perhaps too inexperienced to construct an adequately protective nest.
The importance of the nest in a hedgehog's life, particularly during hibernation may be a significant feature in determining both its distribution and its habitat choice.
KeywordsLife History Significant Feature Small Mammal Environmental Temperature Prefer Site
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Barrett-Hamilton, G. E. H.: History of British mammals, vol. 2. London: Gurney & Jackson 1911.Google Scholar
- Chard, T. S. R.: British animal tracks. London: Pearson 1936.Google Scholar
- Dimelow, E. J.: The behaviour of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.) in the routine of life in captivity. Proc. zool. Soc. Lond. 141, 281–289 (1963).Google Scholar
- Doeksen, J., Van den Drift, J.: Soil organisms. Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co. 1963.Google Scholar
- Edwards, C. A., Heath, G. W.: The role of soil animals in the breakdown of leaf material. In: Doeksen, J., Van der Drift, J. (1963).Google Scholar
- English, M. P., Morris, P.: Trichophyton mentagrophytes var erinacei in hedgehog nests. Sabouraudia 7, 118–121 (1969).Google Scholar
- Imms, A. D.: A general textbook of entomology. London: Methuen 1960.Google Scholar
- Knight, M.: Hedgehogs. In: Animals of Britain, No. 3. London: Sunday Times Publ. 1962.Google Scholar
- Kristoffersson, R., Soivio, A.: The periodicity of hibernation of undisturbed animals during the winter in a constant ambient temperature. Ann. Acad Sci. Fenn. (Ser. A) No 80, 1–22 (1964).Google Scholar
- Lancum, F. H.: Wild mammals and the land. London: HMSO 1951. M.A.F.F. Bulletin No 150.Google Scholar
- Lidicker, W. Z., Jr., Anderson, P. K.: Colonisation of an island by Microtus californicus analysed on the basis of runway transects. J. Anim. Ecol. 31, 503–517 (1962).Google Scholar
- Morris, P.: Apparent hypothermia in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus). J. Zool. 155, 235–236 (1968).Google Scholar
- Ognev, S. I.: Mammals of Eastern Europe and Northeastern Asia, vol. 1 (1928). Translated from Russian and published by Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem (1962).Google Scholar
- Southern, H. N., ed.: The handbook of British mammals. Oxford: Blackwell 1964.Google Scholar
- Taylor-Page, F. J.: Norfolk mammal report 1959. Trans. Norf. Norw. Nats. Soc. 19, 138–149 (1960).Google Scholar
- Thompson, G. B.: The parasites of British birds and mammals. VII. Records of Ixodoidea from hedgehogs and their nests. Ent. mon. Mag. 72, 116–118 (1936).Google Scholar
- Van der Drift, J.: The disappearance of litter in mull and mor in connection with weather conditions and the activity of the macrofauna. In: Doeksen, J., Van der Drift, J. (1963).Google Scholar