Environment. Why and how do I participate in the hedgehog count?

In the spring, a large participating hedgehog count was launched by the France Nature Environnement in the Pays de la Loire. It is important to know the presence on our territory of this protected and endangered species.

Protected since 1981, the European hedgehog is still relatively unknown. Faced with this observation, France Nature Environnement launched a comprehensive census operation in 2018 to better understand and better protect this little mammal, and since March 31, 2022, the FNE Pays de la Loire has decided to roll it out on its territory.

Yet considered common, the European hedgehog is now more and more rare in our region as everywhere in France, and some scientists believe that it may well disappear in 2050.

The man is the first pest of the hedgehog

Xavier Metay

Coordinator for FNE Pays de la Loire

“The greatest threats to this animal today are mainly due to human activities, such as pesticide poisoning, traffic collisions, fatal injuries by mowing the lawn, the disappearance of hedges …”, explains Xavier Métay, coordinator of the FNE Pays de la Loire.

Many people come across garden accidents, especially with autonomous lawn mowers working at night and hedgehogs in the scalp.

Xavier Metay

“Others are stuck in rubbish or fences. It also happens that some are burned during wild burning”, continues Xavier Métay.

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The hedgehog benefits from a strong sympathy capital, it is often found in cartoons and stories for children or even in sports clubs where it takes on the role of mascot.

But if it may seem familiar, we actually know very little about it: what is its real abundance of the population? How does it develop? What effects can climate change and human activities have on the European hedgehog? So many questions currently unanswered that encourage us to complete the survey.

And the best way to get a lot of data is to appeal to all goodwill, everywhere in the Pays de la Loire!

The purpose of this participating census is to better quantify and map the hedgehog population in the region. It’s a statement. Each report can provide valuable information to scientists. ” says Dr. Olivier Lambert, Director of the Veterinary Center for Wildlife and Ecosystems in the Pays de la Loire (CVFSE).

Everyone can thus contribute in their own scale to the building of a huge database, which will make it possible to know the hedgehog better and thus better protect it.

Olivier Lambert

CVFSE Director

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It’s very simple: If you see a hedgehog, just take a picture or video of it and enter your observation on the hedgehog page in FNE

The European hedgehog is the only hedgehog species found in France, so you can not go wrong! The hedgehog is a nocturnal animal and it is not normal to encounter it during the day. But if you are not a night owl, tracks can allow you to discover its presence: footprints, excrement, nests … To find out more about the hedgehog and learn how to identify these tracks, go to the FNE website.

Note that the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a protected species that enjoys a regulated protection status. As a reminder, the following is prohibited by law: destruction or removal of nests, capture, transport, possession, sale or purchase of the animal (Article L. 411-1 of the Environmental Act).

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USThis major communication operation aims to make the general public aware of the urgency of conserving this species on the brink of extinction.

“It’s never too late to take an interest in it. We can still raise the bar. The people of Loire are showing interest in this census campaign. There is a significant increase in the number of reports in the Pays de la Loire. Calls from individuals and associations are literally exploded in recent weeks “, welcomes Xavier Métay, who continues: “At their request, we send them technical sheets so they are better informed about the behaviors they need to take and that they become real sales representatives in their neighborhood and with their family and friends.

A European hedgehog is about twenty centimeters long and weighs an average of 1 kg in adulthood. It is covered with 6,000 to 7,000 feathers; in addition, it is sometimes nicknamed “the little savings king”! This armor and its ability to contract muscles to roll into a ball and remain in this position until the danger is averted, protect it from many predators “, says Xavier Métay.

In the wild, the European hedgehog has a life expectancy of about 3 years, but in captivity it can live a good ten years.

Contrary to popular belief, the hedgehog is not a herbivore. Its diet consists mainly of insects, snails, earthworms. He also happens to eat fruit as well as eggs and sometimes even drinks for cats or dogs!

We can never repeat it enough, but we must not feed the hedgehogs

“Even if you think you’re doing a good deed, giving him cheese to eat or even a bowl of milk can have consequences for his body.” adds Dr. Olivier Lambert.

It is a mammal that lives at night, often between 7pm and 3am, or even until dawn. It can be seen if it has been disturbed or if it is sick or injured.

The hedgehog breeds in May and the female gives birth in June-July from 2 to 6 young. There can be 2 reproductions a year. The little ones have until October to grow and gain weight before going into dens to spend the winter. It then slows down its metabolism by gradually lowering its body temperature and breathing. It then draws on its fat reserves and only comes out in early spring.

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The European hedgehog is the gardener’s friend par excellence as it hunts snails and slugs as well as insects and earthworms. Unfortunately, he is often intoxicated by snails and other pesticides that are still overused.

To best accommodate hedgehogs in your garden, it is best

  • to let a part of your garden lie fallow by not mowing a certain area and be careful when mowing the other parts
  • to leave piles of wood or leaves that can be used as shelter
  • not to use an autonomous robotic lawnmower at night and to be vigilant when using a brushcutter
  • not to use pesticides such as snail repellents that can poison it,
  • to leave a few holes in the bottom of the fence, or even to create a passage in a stone wall so that it can easily go from one garden to another
  • in the summer to provide a bowl of water so he can come and quench his thirst – it will also make many other animals (birds, etc.) happy.

If a hedgehog is installed in your garden, it must be left alone, it is a wild and protected animal.

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If you find a wounded hedgehog (wounds, burns, etc.) or a hedgehog that seems sick to you (hedgehogs found during the day and show signs of weakness), “You should immediately contact the nearest care center or just call a veterinarian and explain the situation. Put the animal in a ventilated box with newsprint at the bottom and leave it quiet, preferably in a cool place” adds Dr. Olivier Lambert.

“The problem is that people in the belief that they are doing the right thing are even trying to treat the injured animal and bring it back to us after a few days, and it’s sometimes too late. It’s a real race against the clock! “, he continues.

You will find, for example, in the Loire-Atlantique ONIRIS (Nantes) and in the Mayenne Refuge de l’Arche (Saint-Fort). In some wards, there are also care centers approved by the prefectures and largely dedicated to this little mammal. This is the case in Maine-et-Loire (SOS Hérisson 49), in Sarthe (Erinaceus France) and most recently in the Vendée. In wards without game care centers, there are environmental protection associations that private individuals can contact.

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The high temperatures raise fears of significant mortality among small mammals, as was the case in May last year.

Game protection associations recommend leaving a small bowl of water near places frequented by these animals.

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