When a hedgehog rolls itself into a spiny ball, there are few
predators who will attempt to bother the hedgehog further.
However, that is not to say that the hedgehog lives a protected
life... far from it. It has been reported recently that the
number of wild hedgehogs is on the decrease over the whole of
It has been noted that the adult hedgehog has a degree of
immunity against snake bite poison. This could well be a
throwback to earlier times in the UK when poisonous snakes such
as the adder were more common.
Aside from snakes, hedgehogs can be the target of badgers,
foxes, owls, eagles and polecats. All will kill the odd one or
two for food, although none have the hedgehog as it's staple
diet. The badger in particular has claws which are long enough
to reach past the defences of hedgehogs, particularly young
By far the largest killer of hedgehogs in the UK it seems
nowadays, is man and his machinery. Most people will see dead
hedgehogs on the roads of the UK and this is very common,
particularly during the summer when hedgehogs are more active.
The natural instinct of a hedgehog on a road, when approached by
a car's headlights, is to curl up. This is no defence, however,
against the car following behind the lights... It is estimated
that somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 are killed on the UK's
roads each year.
Death on the roads, is not the only man-made danger that
hedgehogs have to negotiate. Falling into cattle grids,
pesticides - including slug pellets, mowers and strimmers,
litter for the hedgehog to get stuck in (especially tin cans)
and the reduction of the natural habitat are also contributors
to the decline of the hedgehog.
With the increase in farm sizes over the last 50 years and
the increase in urban building, the countryside hedgerows have
decreased. With this decrease, the habitat and food supply of
the hedgehog slowly decreases.
It was also legal, up until they were protected in 1981, to
cull hedgehogs if they were becoming a pest. Indeed, back in the
16th century, hedgehogs were considered vermin and were hunted.
Later, in the earlier part of the 20th century, game reserves
were killing 10,000 hedgehogs annually in an effort to protect
game birds and their eggs. This continued up into the 1960s at
least. Although hedgehogs do eat eggs and small birds on
occasion, the damage done to the bird life by the hedgehog was
small compared to that done by foxes, crows and wild dogs and
cats. During the first half of the century, one large
estate in East Anglia killed around 20,000 hedgehogs.
The hedgehog also suffers from parasites. Mainly a type of
flea, Archaeopsylla erinacei. This flea only lives on
the hedgehog, however, and will rarely move to a dog or cat and
especially not to humans. Fleas can be killed off with doses of
[ Thanks to Jayne who says the
following about fleas:
I run a Wildlife Rescue in Essex and was pleased to see that
someone has written an informed section on hedgehogs.My only
problem with what you have written is that "hedgehog fleas can
be treated with flea powder". Most flea powders kill hedgehogs!
Unless the fleas are so numerous they are causing the hedgehog
serious health problems they should be left alone. If they have
to be removed a mild, plant based flea powder should be used
sparingly. Pyrethrum is the safest. ]
Ticks, Ixodes hexagonus, also infect hedgehogs and
these can be killed off by smothering them in washing up liquid
until they drown.
Despite both the above living on the hedgehog's skin and
sucking the blood from beneath the skin surface, the hedgehog
seems rarely bothered by it's co-inhabitants.