Hibernation Patterns of the European Hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, at a Cornish Rescue Centre
Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue, Cubert, Newquay, Cornwall TR8 5HD, UK
Centre for Applied Zoology, Cornwall College Newquay, Newquay, Cornwall TR7 2LZ, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2020
Revised: 11 August 2020
Accepted: 12 August 2020
Published: 14 August 2020
Populations of the European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, are declining in the UK. This small mammal is frequently admitted to rescue centres in the UK to be treated for a variety of illnesses or injuries. With many spending the winter in captivity, clear guidelines about how to look after hedgehogs during their hibernation would be very useful. We studied 35 hedgehogs over two winters to learn about their sleeping behaviour and how they change weight. We measured the total length of hibernation and the periods during hibernation when hedgehogs are more active (called spontaneous arousals). There were three main results. (1) The longer the hibernation, the more weight was lost. (2) Previous studies show that arousal is energetically expensive. Despite this, weight-loss was more related to the amount of time spent sleeping than to the number of times the hedgehog woke up, perhaps because they could easily feed each time they woke up. (3) Larger hedgehogs lost proportionally less weight per day, perhaps because they woke up and fed more often than did smaller hedgehogs. Behaviour by hibernating hedgehogs in captivity differs from that in the wild. Patterns revealed in this study are used to make some recommendations for guidelines that can be adapted for individual hedgehogs according to their size and behaviour during hibernation.