Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Erinaceus europaeus – west european hedgehog

Erinaceus europaeus

Erinaceus europaeus L.1758
Family: Erinaceidae

The hedgehog is one of our best known and most easily recognised animals. These small, prickly mammals are found all over Northern Ireland in a wide range of habitats, ranging from woodland and hedgerows to grassland and gardens. Hedgehogs are active at night and hibernate during the winter months. The hedgehog’s preferred method of protection, when danger threatens is to roll up into a ball, rather than running away, which means that many hedgehogs are killed on our roads every year.

In brief

  • Found throughout Northern Ireland in suitable habitat
  • Prefers woodland, hedgerows, grassland and gardens
  • Active at night
  • Hibernates during the winter
  • Listed as a UK Priority species
  • Main threats to the population are loss of habitat and road traffic

Species description
An adult hedgehog is about 250mm long and is very easy to recognise. The back and top of the head are covered with sharp, brown/grey spines, while the pointed face and underside have a covering of coarse brown fur. When disturbed or attacked, the hedgehog will tuck its head into its belly and curl into a prickly ball; this defence strategy means they rarely move away from approaching danger, such as cars. Hedgehogs cannot see well but have an excellent sense of smell and good hearing. Hedgehogs are often heard before they are seen. They snuffle and grunt when feeding and can make a considerable noise when mating.

Life cycle
Hedgehogs are solitary animals and are active mainly at night. They can travel up to 3km a night and will eat almost anything that they find, including caterpillars, earthworms, slugs, snails, insects, bird eggs and dead animals. Baby hedgehogs are born, in a specially prepared nest, during early summer. Hedgehogs hibernate from November to April in a nest, built somewhere dark and dry, often under a hedge or among the roots of trees. They rely on body fat accumulated during the summer and autumn to survive hibernation.

Similar species
There are no similar species in Northern Ireland.

How to see this species
Hedgehogs can be seen in Northern Ireland wherever there is suitable habitat; they are often seen in gardens. The best time to see them is at night from April to October.

Current status
Hedgehogs are found throughout Northern Ireland. Population numbers are not known at present. In some areas of the United Kingdom, hedgehog populations have declined by 20% over the last 4 years. It is not known whether numbers have also dropped in Northern Ireland.

  • Listed on Schedule 6 and 7 of the Wildlife (N. Ireland) Order 1985
  • Listed in Annex III of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?

  • Listed as a UK Priority species
  • It is an Irish Red Data Book species and classed as internationally important

Threats/Causes of decline

  • Habitat loss
  • Accidental death due to road traffic

Conservation of this species

Current action
None known.

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Maintain existing viable hedgehog populations
  • Expand existing viable hedgehog populations

What you can do
To report hedgehog sightings to CEDaR, Telephone 028 9039 5264 or email

Further information

Joint Nature Conservative Committee (JNCC) priority species page

NBN Gateway: West European Hedgehog grid map

Northern Ireland's Mammals, Amphibians & Reptiles



Text written by:
Angela Ross

iNaturalist: Species account : iNaturalist World Species Observations database