Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) [Photograph: Pat Morris]
The Irish Hedgehog Survey is seeking to build a greater understanding of hedgehog distribution and population status across the island of Ireland. The hedgehog is one of Ireland’s most familiar mammal species, yet there is a dearth of information on its status in Ireland. Studies from Britain and elsewhere in Europe have found that hedgehog numbers are in steep decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation from changing farming practices and development. As the environment in Ireland is experiencing similar pressures the hedgehog population in Ireland may be similarly affected. This study will provide baseline data on the distribution and status of hedgehogs in Ireland in order to fill the gap in our knowledge. The survey is a collaborative project between researchers in NUI Galway and the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

How you can help?

As hedgehogs are generally nocturnal they are not often seen in the wild unless they are found dead on roads, or if they are regular visitors to gardens at night. The Irish Hedgehog Survey is looking to receive any sightings of live or dead hedgehogs to build up a more detailed picture of where they occur.

If you see a hedgehog, please report the sighting using the Irish Hedgehog Survey recording form

In addition to collecting casual hedgehog sightings, the Irish Hedgehog Survey is seeking volunteers to participate in a more focused survey using footprint tunnels or camera traps to survey for hedgehogs in the garden. No specialist training is required and a simple footprint tunnel can be made at home. The survey will run between the start of June and the end of September. You can find information here https://www.irishhedgehogsurvey.com/.

There is also a questionnaire for farmers to answer about hedgehogs on their land. It is a short, simple survey and the results will be very helpful in mapping the distribution on hedgehogs in the Irish countryside.

The Irish Hedgehog Survey is also looking to receive any hedgehog corpses. If you find a dead hedgehog, for example, a roadkill animal, please collect the specimen, place in a plastic bag (double bag if necessary), labelled with the date and location, and contact NUI Galway (elaine.oriordan@nuigalway.ie) to arrange a collection. If possible, please chill or freeze the specimen until collection.

 

About the Hedgehog

Distribution of West European Hedgehog in Ireland

Hedgehogs, with their spiny coats are one of our most instantly recognisable mammal species. Adult hedgehogs measure between 15cm and 30 cm and weigh up to 2kg while juveniles are smaller.

Hedgehogs are found throughout the country and will live in farmland, woodland, gardens and parks. They avoid very wet areas and conifer plantations and they are scarce in upland regions. They favour habitats with good cover of bushes and hedgerows which provide them with shelter, food and corridors to travel through the countryside. They are solitary animals and they may have several, temporary nests that they use to rest during the day. Animals are usually most active from April to October, but they can occasionally be seen also during the winter months.  While there is existing data on hedgehog distribution in Ireland, there is still much to learn about its precise habitat preferences.

Hedgehogs emerge at night to feed on insects such as beetles and other small invertebrates like millipedes and snails. They will also opportunistically feed on carrion, eggs, frogs and fallen fruit. If hedgehogs encounter danger, they will roll into a ball with spines raised to protect themselves. The badger is the only effective predator of hedgehogs in Ireland.
Females usually have one litter per year with most hoglets born in June and July. Breeding can take place between April and September but litters born later in the season may not have time to grow big enough to survive hibernation.

Hedgehogs are true hibernators – they hibernate during the winter months, but if the weather is very mild, they may wake up to feed.