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Mammal Species of the World's Boreal Forests

BIRDS

   
Erinaceus europaeus
European Hedgehog

Description

Distinguishing Features - Weight: 800 - 1200 g; Length: 135 - 265 cm; with males are slightly larger than females. The hedgehog is a squat, rounded creature with five-toed, well padded feet. The second, third and fourth toes are the same length with strong claws, while the first and fifth toes are smaller with smaller claws. The hind feet are slightly longer but the same width as the forefeet. The hedgehog has a mobile pointy snout, round eyes, and short, rounded ears that are almost hidden in the fur. The dorsal and lateral surfaces, excluding the facial area and legs, are densely covered with about 5,000 spines of about 20 mm in length that are white at the base and the tip, with bands of black, white and brown in between. The normal hair on the hedgehog's face, legs and ventral body surface is coarse and yellow-white to dark brown. The hedgehog's upper incisors are spaced widely apart so that the lower incisors fit between them.

European Hedgehog Habitat

Widespread throughout Europe, through southern Scandinavia to western Russia in the Palaearctic region, rarely found above 60 degrees North latitude. Hedgehogs nest in brush piles, under rocks or in other crevices. They are thought to have different winter and summer burrows. They hibernate in their winter burrows from October to April, although their hibernation period is not as rigid nor as continuous as those of some other mammals.

Diet

Although it belongs to the Order Insectivora, the Hedgehog is quite the omnivore, known to eat a wide range of invertebrates but prefers earthworms, slugs and snails. Its favorite arthropods seem to be millipedes ground beetles. The hedgehog will also eat frogs, small reptiles, young birds and mice, carrion, small bird eggs, acorns, and berries.

Notes

The hedgehog is solitary except during breeding season. However, when several hedgehogs are in an area, some sort of pecking order does seem to fall into place. They make a variety of snuffling and snorting vocalizations and also clack their teeth. Young make birdlike whistles and quacks while in the nest. A scream is often made in distress, but does not seem to result from the infliction of pain.

They are excellent swimmers and climbers. They are also able to squeeze under and through tight spaces. This is partly due to the loose nature of the hedgehog's skin--a feature which also allows it to curl up into a tight little ball when threatened by predators.



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