GWCT National Gamebag Census & Tracking Mammals Partnership

Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus

Taxonomy: Class: Mammalia; Order: Insectivora; Family: Erinaceidae

Description

Hedgehog photo
Hedgehog © Laurie Campbell

The hedgehog is a small insectivorous mammal covered with sharp defensive spines. It is almost entirely nocturnal, and feeds on ground-dwelling invetebrates including slugs and snails. It also eats the eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds, sometimes to devastating effect (Jackson & Green 2000). It likes a varied habitat, and often visits suburban gardens (Sedgly 1991).

The hedgehog benefits from partial protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981). The numbers reported to the NGC nowadays have been caught unintentionally in tunnel traps set for rats or small mustelids.

Further information:
Mammal Society website hedgehog page.

Conservation status and legislation

Status:
UK: Native. Priority species under the UK Biodoversity Action Plan
World: Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Legislation:
 
Logo NBN Gateway © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved NERC 100017897 2004
Source: National Biodiversity Network and its data providers, who bear
no responsibility for interpretation of the 10x10-km grid map
 

Distribution and abundance

The hedgehog is widespread across the the whole of Britain. It has been introduced to many of its offshore islands as well as to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It is found throughout Ireland, although a scarcity of records means that this is not apparent from the map.

Estimates of hedgehog abundance (numbers of individuals in the spring) across the UK, from Harris et al. (1995):

United Kingdom 1,555,000
England 1,100,000
Scotland 310,000
Wales 145,000
N Ireland no estimate

Recent trends from the National Gamebag Census

United Kingdom

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Hedgehog trend United Kingdom

After remaining approximately level for 20 years, the bag index declined from 1980 to 2009, leading to an overall significant decline since 1961. The decline coincides with the rise of the badger, an important predator of hedgehogs, which has been shown to limit hedgehog distribution (Doncaster 1994). However, a similar decline could also arise through a reduction in trapping effort over time.

Change in hedgehog bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
United Kingdom 697 1961 2009 -52*
-74 to -9
-46
-68 to 2
-33
-54 to 2

* significant at P < 0.05

England

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Hedgehog trend England

After remaining approximately level for 20 years, the bag index appeared to decline from 1980 to 2009 as it did for the UK. However, the change is not statistically significant. The apparent decline coincides with the rise of the badger, an important predator of hedgehogs, which has been shown to limit hedgehog distribution (Doncaster 1994). However, a similar decline could also arise through a reduction in trapping effort over time.

Change in hedgehog bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
England 546 1961 2009 -53
-78 to 2
-45
-71 to 13
-28
-56 to 12

* significant at P < 0.05

Scotland

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Hedgehog trend Scotland

Although no trend was detected overall, there has been a significant decline in the bag index between 1984 and 2009. The decline coincides with the rise of the badger, an important predator of hedgehogs, which has been shown to limit hedgehog distribution (Doncaster 1994). However, a similar decline could also arise through a reduction in trapping effort over time.

Change in hedgehog bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Scotland 130 1961 2009 -19
-59 to 45
-40*
-62 to -4
-37
-62 to 18

* significant at P < 0.05

Wales

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Hedgehog trend Wales

There has been a significant decline in the bag index between 1961 and 2009. The decline persists across the most recent 25-year and 15-year periods. The decline coincides with the rise of the badger, an important predator of hedgehogs, which has been shown to limit hedgehog distribution (Doncaster 1994). However, a similar decline could also arise through a reduction in trapping effort over time.

Change in hedgehog bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Wales 19 1961 2009 -84*
-90 to -78
-73*
-77 to -65
-68*
-71 to -63

* significant at P < 0.05

N Ireland

There are too few bag records of hedgehog to produce an index graph. Hedgehog trend N Ireland

 

There are too few bag records of hedgehog to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
N Ireland Too few sites

Environmental zones

Change in hedgehog bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Environmental zone Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Easterly lowlands (England/Wales) 381 1961 2009 -51
-81 to 15
-40
-75 to 31
-28
-63 to 21
Westerly lowlands (England/Wales) 122 1961 2009 -70*
-86 to -11
-77
-76 to 18
96
-23 to 377
Uplands (England/Wales) 60 1961 2009 -48
-80 to 147
-51
-73 to 9
-40
-76 to 122
Lowlands (Scotland) 46 1961 2009 -35
-78 to 66
-62
-82 to 5
-63
-84 to 44
Intermediate uplands/islands (Scotland) 23 1961 2009 23
-32 to 161
-15
-54 to 93
15
-29 to 62
True uplands (Scotland) 60 1961 2009 -8
-56 to 77
-10
-48 to 45
29
-26 to 104

* significant at P < 0.05

Comparison with BBS mammal data

No comparison with the NGC trend is possible because too few hedgehog records are received through the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) organised by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Long-term trend from the National Gamebag Census

There are too few bag records of hedgehog to produce a trend starting before 1961.

References and further reading

  • Battersby,J. (2005). UK Mammals: Species Status and Population Trends. Joint Nature Conservation Committee/Tracking Mammals Partnership, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Doncaster,C.P. (1994). Factors regulating local variations in abundance: field tests on hedgehogs, Erinaceus europaeus. Oikos 69: 182-192.
  • Harris,S., Morris,P., Wray,S. & Yalden,D.W. (1995). A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Harris,S. & Yalden,D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition. Mammal Society, Southampton.
  • Jackson,D.B. & Green,R.E. (2000). The importance of the introduced hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) as a predator of the eggs of waders (Charadrii) on machair in South Uist, Scotland. Biological Conservation 93: 333-348.
  • Morris,P. (2006). The New Hedgehog Book. Whittet Books, London.
  • Sedgley,J. (1991). Hedgehogs in Your Garden? Mammal Society, Southampton.

This report should be cited as: Aebischer,N.J., Davey,P.D. & Kingdon,N.G. (2011). National Gamebag Census: Mammal Trends to 2009. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Fordingbridge (http://www.gwct.org.uk/ngcmammals).

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