Feeding ecology of the European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus.
The objective of this study was to examine ecological and
behavioural aspects of feeding in the European hedgehog (Erinace~~
eus~aeuB L.) and to attempt to relate these to the accumulation and
use of energy.
The availability of the invertebrate prey of hedgehogs is shown
to vary on a seasonal basis, and to depend also on the weather,
habitat, and species of prey animal. For some prey, notably the
carabid beetles and earthworms, this variability appears to be
relatively predictable. Observations of hedgehog behaviour revealed
that animals spent about 80% of their active time foraging regardless
of sex. Males spent a greater proportion of their foraging time in
neighbouring gardens than did females and also tended to move faster
while foraging. Both sexes moved faster in the less dense habitats.
Foraging behaviour frequently appeared to exhibit a bimodal pattern,
decreasing somewhat during the middle hours of the night and picking
up again later on.
A study of hedgehog diets revealed that although a wide variety
of invertebrates were consumed, the bulk of energy was provided by
only four prey types (carabid beetles, earthworms, Lepidoptera
larvae, and tipulid larvae). Within these four types, hedgehogs
showed a clear tendency to concentrate on only one type at a time and
to switch from one group to another on a seasonal basis. Preference
indices (which relate diet and availability) suggested that these
four prey types plus the gastropods and dermapterans were the
preferred prey. There was an implication that the proportion of a given prey type in the diet may have been loosely related to the
Length of time spent foraging in a particular habitat.
A respirometry technique was used to make estimates of hedgehog
energetic requirements. Relationships between resting metabolic rate
and body weight and ambient temperature agreed welt with figures
reported elsewhere but metabolic rates of' active animals conformed
Less well to published data. However, a strong predictive
relationship was found between estimates of daily metabolic
requirement and body weight, ambient temperature, and the length of
time that the hedgehog was active (as opposed to resting). This
suggested that an average (600 g) hedgehog would require between 90
and 150 Kcal/day. Estimates of metabolic requirements during
hibernation, suggest that hedgehogs lose 0.2% of their original body
weight for each day that they spend in hibernation [between 0.8 -