The European hedgehog is a protected species much appreciated by gardeners as it devours snails, spiders, worms and other ravaging insects.
The European hedgehog in our gardens (Erinaceus europaeus) is a small omniverous mammal measuring between 22 and 27 cms. in length. It is between 10 and 15 cms. tall and weighs between 500 g. and 2 kgs. It is easily recognized by its hollow spikes which protect it from attacks, especially from dogs and foxes. Experts say that its origins go back to the age of the dinosaurs.
It was worshipped by ancient Egyptians, before being associated with witchcraft in the Middle Ages. It was later served up in a sauce on festive occasions ! Common throughout Europe, it is protected by annex III of the Berne Convention. It is forbidden to hunt, capture and transport a hedgehog.
It is illegal to sell or to keep a hedgehog in the house. Despite these restrictions, hedgehogs are often found in private gardens, as they travel many kilometres when they wake up. In fact they spend most of their time asleep – 18 hours a day ! They are so hungry when they wake up, they eat everything that passes in front of their pointed noses : spiders, worms, carabus beetles, all sorts of insects, snails, frogs and toads, snakes, birds’ eggs, the carcasses of animals, a few mushrooms, grasses, roots, berries, and so on….
Its huge appetite for ravaging species makes the hedgehog a great ally of the gardener. Although it has very bad eyesight, it possesses highly developed senses of hearing and smell. Gardeners who try to attract it to their gardens often do so by offering it milk or cheese, which it loves. However, this is not advised, as the hedgehog suffers from a serious intolerance of lactose.
The best way to attract it is to leave out some dog or cat biscuits, but be careful not to give it too much – it may not feel the need to eat damaging parasites afterwards !
Did you know ?
- The average lifespan of a hedgehog is normally between 7 and 10 years, but with the increase of car traffic over the last few decades, its life expectancy has sadly been reduced to less than 2 years, with an infant mortality rate of over 20 %.