Acta Theriologica

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 165–171 | Cite as

Non-invasive methods of separating hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) age classes and an investigation into the age structure of road kill

  • Amy Haigh
  • Martina Kelly
  • Fidelma Butler
  • Ruth M. O’Riordan
Original Paper


The separation of animals into age classes is often fraught with difficulties, but is essential for the interpretation of survival rates and population structure. This study investigated both live hedgehogs and road kill in order to develop techniques that could be utilised to separate age classes in the field. Body measurements were taken from 24 live hedgehogs caught at a site in County Cork, Ireland over a three year period. Additionally, carcasses from around Ireland were collected and measured. There was a significant correlation between the weight and hind foot length of both live and dead hedgehogs. The weight of individuals was also significantly correlated with the body length and jaw length of hedgehogs. In all of these correlations, the sample clustered clearly into two groups with ‘juveniles’ meeting all of the following criteria: a hind foot length of <3.6 cm, a body length of < 16 cm and a jaw length of below 4.5 cm. It is suggested that these parameters, combined with the presence of growing spines, could provide a way of separating age classes in the field. This would be of particular benefit to short term studies, allowing the population structure to be accurately assessed and the reproductive success and sustainability of a population to be investigated. Road kill were also aged using the dentary bone in order to investigate the age profiles of hedgehogs killed on the road. Amongst those killed, 54 % of hedgehogs were 1-year-old or less. The majority of hedgehogs (87 %) were between 0–3-years-old, the oldest females were nine (n = 2), and the oldest males were eight years old (n = 2), respectively. Road kill hedgehogs had an average longevity of 1.94 years, and the mean age of females was higher (2.10 years) than males (1.87 years).


Hedgehogs Ageing techniques Morphometrics Periosteal growth lines Road kill Longevity 



The authors would gratefully like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people, Digger Jackson, Pat Morris, Nigel Reeve and Anouschka Hof for their invaluable advice on hedgehog research at the start of this work, Padraig Whelan and all of the people who collected carcasses. The Department of Environment, Heritage and local Government for granting licences, the Crawford Hayes fund for PhD scholarship and all the staff and students in U.C.C who assisted in this study.

Supplementary material

13364_2013_142_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


  1. Bodkin J, Ames J, Jameson R, Johnson A, Matson G (1997) Estimating age of sea otters with cementum layers in the first premolar. J Wildl Manag 61(3):967–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Clutton-Brock TH, Isvaran K (2007) Sex differences in ageing in natural populations of vertebrates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274(1629):3097–3104PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dickman C (1988) Age-related dietary change in the European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus. Journal of Zoology 215(1):1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Doncaster C (1993) The influence of predation threat on foraging pattern: the hedgehog’s gambit. Revue d’ecologie (La Terre et la Vie) 48:207–213Google Scholar
  5. Doncaster C, Rondinini C, Johnson P (2001) Field test for environmental correlates of dispersal in hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus. J Anim Ecol 70(1):33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fogl JG, Mosby HS (1978) Ageing grey squirrels by cementum annuli in razor-sectioned teeth. J Wildl Manag 42(2):444–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gilbert FF (1966) Ageing white-tailed deer by annuli in the cementum of the first incisor. J Wildl Manag 30(1):200–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goransson G, Karlsson J, Lindgren A (1976) Road mortality of the hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus in southern Sweden, 71st edn. Fauna Flora, Stockholm, pp 1–6Google Scholar
  9. Haigh A (2011) The ecology of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural Ireland. PhD thesis, University College CorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Haigh A, Butler F, O’Riordan R (2012a) Courtship behaviour of western hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in a rural landscape in Ireland and the first appearance of offspring. Lutra 55(1):41–54Google Scholar
  11. Haigh A, ORiordan R, Butler F (2012b) Nesting behaviour and seasonal body mass changes in a rural Irish population of the Western hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). Acta Theriologica. doi: 10.1007/s13364-012-0080-2 Google Scholar
  12. Hayden T, Harrington R (eds) (2001) Exploring Irish Mammals. Town House Dublin, DublinGoogle Scholar
  13. Hell P, Plavý R, Slame ka J, Gašparík J (2005) Losses of mammals (Mammalia) and birds (Aves) on roads in the Slovak part of the Danube Basin. Eur J Wildl Res 51(1):35–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Henderson B, Bowen H (1979) A short note: estimating the age of the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, by counting the adhesion lines in the periosteal zone of the lower mandible. J Appl Ecol 16(2):393–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hof (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
  16. Holsbeek L, Rodts J, Muyldermans S (1999) Hedgehog and other animal traffic victims in Belgium: results of a countryside survey. Lutra 42:111–119Google Scholar
  17. Hrabe V (1975) Variation in somatic characters of two species of Erinaceus (Insectivora, Mammalia) in relation to individual age. Zoologicke Listy 24(4):335–352Google Scholar
  18. Huijser M, Bergers P, De Vries J (1998) Hedgehog traffic victims: how to quantify effects on the population level and the prospects for mitigation. Proceedings of the International Conference on Wildlife Ecology and Transportation. In: Evink GL, Garrett and Berry P (eds) Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee, Florida, pp 171–180Google Scholar
  19. Jackson D (2006) The breeding biology of introduced hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) on a Scottish Island: lessons for population control and bird conservation. Journal of Zoology 268(3):303–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 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(2):151–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kristiansson H (1981) Distribution of the European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.) in Sweden and Finland. Annales Zoologici Fennici 18(2):115–119Google Scholar
  22. Kristiansson H (1984) Ecology of a hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus population in southern Sweden. PhD thesis, University of LundGoogle Scholar
  23. Mitchell B (1967) Growth layers in dental cement for determining the age of red deer (Cervus elaphus L.). J Anim Ecol 36(2):279–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moffitt SA (1998) Aging Bison by the incremental cementum growth layers in teeth. J Wildl Manag 62(4):1276–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morris P (1969) Some Aspects on the ecology of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). PhD thesis, University of LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Morris P (1970) A method for determining absolute age in the hedgehog. Journal of Zoology 161(2):277–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Morris P (1997) Released, rehabilitated hedgehogs: a follow-up study in Jersey. Animal welfare-Potters Bar- 6:317–328Google Scholar
  28. Morris P (2006) The new hedgehog book. Whittet books Ltd, SuffolkGoogle Scholar
  29. Murphy S (2004) The biology and ecology of the short beaked common dolphin (Delphinius delphis) in the North East Atlantic. PhD, University College CorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Parkes J (1975) Some aspects of the biology of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.) in the Manawatu, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 2(4):463–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reeve NJ (1981) A field study of the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) with particular reference to movements and behaviour. PhD thesis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Reeve, NJ (1994) Hedgehogs. Poyser, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Sleeman DP, Smiddy P, Sweeney PG (1985) Irish Mammal road casualties. Irish Naturalists Journal 21(12):544Google Scholar
  34. Smiddy P (2002) Bird and mammal mortality on roads in counties Cork and Waterford, Ireland. Bull Ir Biogeogr Soc 26:29–38Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Haigh
    • 1
  • Martina Kelly
    • 1
  • Fidelma Butler
    • 1
  • Ruth M. O’Riordan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES)University College CorkCorkIreland

Personalised recommendations