The ecology of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural Ireland
University College Cork
This study on the ecology of Irish hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) has provided information on detection techniques, home range, habitat selection, hedgehog prey, nesting, courtship, genetics, road mortality, parasites, ageing and morphology of this species. Data were obtained from a focal study area in rural Cork, in which 24 radio tagged hedgehogs were monitored from June 2008 to June 2010. Further data were obtained through road kill surveys and the collection of hedgehog carcasses from around Ireland. Hedgehogs of both sexes were found to display philopatry. Habitat was not used in proportion to its availability, but certain habitats were selected and a similar pattern of habitat selection was evident in successive years. Hedgehogs preferred arable land in September and October and, unlike studies elsewhere, were observed to forage in the centre of fields. Badgers were regularly seen at the study site and did not appear to negatively affect hedgehogs’ use of the area. Instead the intra- and inter-habitat distribution of hedgehogs was closely correlated with that of their potential prey. Male hedgehogs had a mean annual home range of 56 ha and females 16.5 ha, although monthly home ranges were much more conservative. Male home range peaked during the breeding season (April-July) and a peak in road deaths was observed during these months. The majority of road kill (54%) were individuals of one year old or less, however, individuals were found up to eight and nine years of age. Genetic analysis showed a distinct lack of genetic variation amongst Irish hedgehogs and suggests colonisation by a small number of individuals. The ectoparasites, Archaeopsylla erinacei, Ixodes hexagonus and Ixodes canisuga were recorded in addition to the endoparasites Crenosoma striatum and Capillaria erinacei. In light of the reported decline in many areas of the hedgehogs’ range, it is a species of conservation concern, and this is the first study examining the ecology of the hedgehog in Ireland.
Habitat use , Rural Ireland
Haigh, A. J. 2011. The ecology of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in rural Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.