Systematic classification and distribution
The Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is widespread throughout Europe and in much of northern Asia. It lives in the maquis and in the woods from the plains to the mountains up to about 1500 m of altitude. It is easily found in fields and gardens. In Italy it is present throughout the territory, including the islands. Hedgehog hunting has been practiced in the past, but today the species is protected according to L. 11/02/1992, n.157, as it is considered non-huntable species.
In some parts of Eastern Europe it overlaps or is replaced by the Eastern hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor).
Hedgehog female with young (photo Matteo Matichecchia)
Head-body length: 26-35 cm
Tail length: 2-4 cm
Ears length: 20-35 mm
Weight: 450-1,200 grams
The whole hedgehog, except for the muzzle, legs and lower parts, is covered with spines about 2 cm long, gray in color with whitish lapice. The trunk is large and stocky with head not well distinct from the body; the legs are strong with fingers with strong nails; the muzzle is pointed; the short and thick tail. The female is larger than the male.
It feeds on insects and some invertebrates (earthworms and molluscs), but also on acorns, berries, birds, reptiles and even young mice. Active especially at dusk, but also at night, during the day it remains in the nest. It hibernates from October to April; body temperature drops from 34 ° to 4 ° C. In nature it can live from 7 to 10 years.
They are essentially solitary animals, except for the mating period, the ritual of which can last up to several hours. To call each other, the hedgehogs emit whistles. Between April and September, the female gives birth to 1 to 9 offspring that are born with light skin and speckles, at which the spines then grow which are initially entirely white, sparse and soft; after about six weeks the young are completely independent.
Eastern hedgehog Erinaceus concolor
It is found mainly in Eastern Europe and partly in Central and Eastern Europe; in Central and Eastern Europe it overlaps or is replaced by the western hedgehog. In Italy he lives in the plains and hills of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.
Similar in appearance and biology to the western hedgehog.