Acta Theriologica

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 321–331 | Cite as

Nesting behaviour and seasonal body mass changes in a rural Irish population of the Western hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

Original Paper


There was previously no information on nesting, seasonal body mass or the hibernation behaviour of the hedgehog in Ireland. Between 2008 and 2009, hedgehogs were caught, weighed weekly and monitored by radio tracking at a rural Irish site. Day nests were recorded in the active period and hibernacula thereafter. Arable land has been reported to be poorly utilised by hedgehogs in the UK and Denmark. In Ireland, day nests and hibernacula were constructed in the hedgerows of arable land indicating that these areas will be exploited if hedgerow is maintained and highlights the importance of maintaining hedgerows in arable areas. Individual females returned to the same day nest significantly more than males. Over the 2 years, individuals were found to occupy a mean of 1.8 (±0.9; SD) hibernacula (maximum of 3) and they rotated between nests up to four times (mean of 2.5 ± 1.6). When hedgehogs occupied multiple hibernacula, those occupied in mid winter (December and January) were occupied for significantly longer than those occupied at the start (October and November) and end (February and March) of hibernation. Studies in the UK and Denmark have reported on hedgehog hibernation. However, the winter climate in southern Ireland is milder than other areas of Europe and thus it was expected that hibernation characteristics would also differ, i.e. shorter hibernation periods, earlier emergence, lower body mass loss and the ability to survive hibernation at a lower body mass. This proved to be the case with a mean hibernation period (±SE) of 148.9 (±0.5) days, a mean body mass loss of 17.0 (±0.53) %, emergence in March and the ability of late juveniles to survive at a pre-hibernation body mass of 475 g.


Day nests Arable Inter-sex differences Hibernacula Winter arousal Seasonal body mass changes 

Supplementary material

13364_2012_80_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1The number of hedgehogs caught and tracked each year and the duration of each observation technique. (DOCX 16 kb)
13364_2012_80_Fig5_ESM.jpg (52 kb)

(JPEG 51 kb)

13364_2012_80_MOESM2_ESM.tif (60 kb)
High resolution (TIFF 59 kb)


  1. Boitani L, Reggiani G (1984) Movements and activity patterns of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Mediterranean coastal habitats. Zeitschrift fuer Saeugetierkunde 49:193–206Google Scholar
  2. Brockie R (ed) (1990) European hedgehog. The handbook of New Zealand mammals. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Bunnell T (2002) The assessment of British hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) casualties on arrival and determination of optimum release weights using a new index. J Wildl Rehabil 25:11–22Google Scholar
  4. Bunnell T (2009) Growth rate in early and late litters of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). Lutra 52:15–22Google Scholar
  5. Burel F (1996) Hedgerows and their role in agricultural landscapes. Crit Rev Plant Sci 15:169–190Google Scholar
  6. Burel F, Butet A, Delettre YR, Millàn de la Peña N (2004) Differential response of selected taxa to landscape context and agricultural intensification. Landsc Urban Plan 67:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cabot D (1999) Ireland. Harper Collins, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Croxton PJ, Franssen W, Myhill DG, Sparks TH (2004) The restoration of neglected hedges: a comparison of management treatments. Biol Conserv 117:19–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dayan T, Simberloff D (1994) Character displacement, sexual dimorphism, and morphological variation among British and Irish mustelids. Ecology 75:1063–1073CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Doncaster C (1994) Factors regulating local variations in abundance: field tests on hedgehogs, Erinaceus europaeus. Oikos 69:182–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doncaster C, Rondinini C, Johnson P (2001) Field test for environmental correlates of dispersal in hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus. J Anim Ecol 70:33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dowding CV, Harris S, Poulton S, Baker PJ (2010) Nocturnal ranging behaviour of urban hedgehogs, Erinaceus europaeus, in relation to risk and reward. Anim Behav 80:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dowie M (1987) Rural hedgehogs many questions to answer. Game Conservancy Annu Rev 18:126–129Google Scholar
  14. EPA (2008) State of the environment report. Environmental Protection Agency, Johnstown CastleGoogle Scholar
  15. Erlinge S (1987) Why do European stoats Mustela erminea not follow Bergmann’s rule? Ecography 10:33–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fairley J (ed) (1984) An Irish beast book, 2nd edn. Blackstaff, BelfastGoogle Scholar
  17. Gelling M, Macdonald D, Mathews F (2007) Are hedgerows the route to increased farmland small mammal density? Use of hedgerows in British pastoral habitats. Landsc Ecol 22:1019–1032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haigh A (2011) The ecology of the european hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural Ireland. PhD thesis, University College CorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Hinsley SA, Bellamy PE (2000) The influence of hedge structure, management and landscape context on the value of hedgerows to birds: a review. J Environ Manag 60:33–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hof A (2009) A study of the current status of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), and its decline in Great Britain since 1960. PhD thesis, Royal Holloway, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Huijser M (2000) Life on the edge. Hedgehog traffic victims and mitigation strategies in an anthropogenic landscape. PhD thesis, Wageningen UniversityGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackson DB (2001) Experimental removal of introduced hedgehogs improves wader nest success in the Western Isles, Scotland. J Appl Ecol 38(4):802–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson D (2006) Factors affecting the abundance of introduced hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) to the Hebridean island of South Uist in the absence of natural predators and implications for nesting birds. J Zool 271(2):210–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jackson DB, Green RE (2000) The importance of the introduced hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) as a predator of the eggs of waders (Charadrii) on machair in South Uist, Scotland. Biol Conserv 93:333–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jackson DB, Fuller RJ, Campbell ST (2004) Long-term population changes among breeding shorebirds in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, in relation to introduced hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). Biol Conserv 117:151–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jensen A (2004) Overwintering of European hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus in a Danish rural area. Acta Theriol 49:145–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kristiansson H (1984) Ecology of a hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus population in southern Sweden. PhD thesis, University of LundGoogle Scholar
  28. Met
  29. Micol T, Doncaster C, Mackinlay L (1994) Correlates of local variation in the abundance of hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus. J Anim Ecol 63:851–860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morris P (1969) Some Aspects on the ecology of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). PhD thesis, University of LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Morris P (1973) Winter nests of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.). Oecologia 11:299–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morris P (1984) An estimate of the minimum body weight necessary for hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) to survive hibernation. J Zool 203:291–294Google Scholar
  33. Parkes J (1975) Some aspects of the biology of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.) in the Manawatu, New Zealand. N Z J Zool 2:463–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pithon JA, Moles R, O’Halloran J (2005) The influence of coniferous afforestation on lowland farmland bird communities in Ireland: different seasons and landscape contexts. Landsc Urban Plan 71:91–103Google Scholar
  35. Pollard E, Hooper MD, Moore NW (1977) Hedges. Collins, St James Place, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Reeve NJ (1981) A field study of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) with particular reference to movements and behaviour. PhD thesis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Reeve NJ (1982) The home range of the hedgehog as revealed by a radio tracking study. Symp Zool Soc Lond 49:207–230Google Scholar
  38. Riber AB (2006) Habitat use and behaviour of European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus in a Danish rural area. Acta Theriol 51:363–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Robinson RA, Sutherland WJ (2002) Post-war changes in arable farming and biodiversity in Great Britain. J Appl Ecol 39:157–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rudel TK, Coomes OT, Moran E, Achard F, Angelsen A, Xu J, Lambin E (2005) Forest transitions: towards a global understanding of land use change. Glob Environ Chang 15:23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tähti H, Soivio A (1977) Respiratory and circulatory differences between induced and spontaneous arousals in hibernating hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus L.). Ann Zool Fenn 14:197–202Google Scholar
  42. Walhovd H (1978) The overwintering pattern of Danish hedgehogs in outdoor confinement, during three successive winters. Natura Jutland 20:273–284Google Scholar
  43. Walhovd H (1979) Partial arousals from hibernation in hedgehogs in outdoor hibernacula. Oecologia 40:141–153Google Scholar
  44. Webb P, Ellison J (1998) Normothermy, torpor, and arousal in hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) from Dunedin. N Z J Zool 25:85–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. White TA, Searle JB (2007) Factors explaining increased body size in common shrews (Sorex araneus) on Scottish Islands. J Biogeogr 34:356–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Young AG, Port GR, Green DB (1993) Development of a forecast of slug activity: validation of models to predict slug activity from meteorological conditions. Crop Prot 12:232–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Haigh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ruth M. O’Riordan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Fidelma Butler
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences (BEES)University College CorkCorkIreland
  2. 2.School of BEESThe Cooperage, Distillery Fields, North MallCorkIreland
  3. 3.School of BEESEnterprise Centre, Distillery Fields, North MallCorkIreland

Personalised recommendations