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

In the spring, France Nature Environnement de Pays de la Loire launched a large participatory hedgehog census operation. It is important to know the presence in our territory of this protected and threatened species.

Protected since 1981, the European hedgehog remains relatively unknown. Faced with this observation, France Nature Environnement launched a major census operation in 2018 to better understand and better protect this small mammal and, from March 31, 2022, FNE Pays de la Loire decided to implement it on its territory.

However, considered common, the European hedgehog is now increasingly rare in our region as everywhere in France and some scientists believe that it could disappear by 2050.

Man is the first plague for the hedgehog

Javier Metay

Coordinator of FNE Pays de la Loire

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

Many suffer gardening accidents, especially with autonomous lawnmowers that work at night and hedgehogs with hair.

Javier Metay

“Others get caught in debris or fences. It also happens that some are burned during the wild burning,” Xavier Metay continues.


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

But if it may sound familiar, we actually know very little about it: what is the actual abundance of its population? How does it evolve? What could be the effects of climate change and human activities on the European hedgehog? So many unanswered questions at the moment, which encourage us to carry out the investigation.

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

This participatory census aims to better quantify and map the hedgehog population in the region. it’s an inventory. Each report can provide valuable information to scientists.” says Dr. Olivier Lambert, director of the Pays de la Loire Veterinary Center for Wildlife and Ecosystems (CVFSE).

Each one can thus contribute, on their own scale, to the constitution of a vast database that will make it possible to better understand the hedgehog and therefore better protect it.

olivier lamberto

CVFSE Director


It’s very simple: if you see a hedgehog, all you have to do is take a photo or video of it and enter your observation on the Hedgehogs page of the FNE

The European hedgehog is the only species of hedgehog present in France, so you can’t go wrong! The hedgehog being a nocturnal animal, it is not normal to come across it during the day. However, if you are not a night owl, the tracks can allow you to detect their presence: footprints, droppings, nests… To find out more about the hedgehog and learn how to identify these tracks, go to the FNE website.

Attention, the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a protected species, which benefits from a regulated protection status. As a reminder, the following are prohibited by law: the destruction or removal of nests, the capture, transport, possession, sale or purchase of the animal (article L. 411-1 of the environmental code).


againstThis great communication operation aims to make citizens aware of the urgency of keeping this species on the verge of extinction.

“It is never too late to take an interest in it. We can still raise the bar. The inhabitants of the Loire show 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 have literally shot up in the last few weeks,” rejoices Xavier Métay, who continues: “At their request, we send them technical sheets so that they are better informed about the behavior to adopt and become true sales representatives in their neighborhood and with their family and friends.

“A European hedgehog is about eight inches long and weighs an average of 2 pounds as an adult. It is covered with 6,000 to 7,000 quills, and is also sometimes referred to as “the little king of spades.” This armor and its ability to contract its muscles to roll into a ball, and remain in this position until danger is averted, protect it from many predators,” says Xavier Metay.

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

Contrary to popular belief, the hedgehog is not a herbivore. Their diet consists mainly of insects, snails, earthworms. He also eats fruit, eggs, and sometimes even cat or dog kibble!

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

“Even if you think you are doing a good deed, feeding him cheese or even a bowl of milk, for example, can have consequences on his body,” adds Dr. Olivier Lambert.

It is a mammal that lives at night, often between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., or even until dawn. You can see if he has been disturbed or if he 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 in the year. The little ones have until October to grow and gain weight before going into hibernation for the winter. It then slows down your metabolism by gradually lowering your body temperature and breathing. It then taps into its fat reserves and only comes out in early spring.


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

To better accommodate hedgehogs in your garden, it is best

  • leaving part of your garden fallow by not mowing a certain area and being careful when mowing the other parts
  • leave piles of wood or leaves to serve as shelter
  • not using an autonomous robotic lawnmower at night and being vigilant when using a brushcutter
  • do not use pesticides such as slug repellants, which could poison you,
  • leave some holes in the bottom of the fence, or even create a passage in a stone wall so you can easily move from one garden to another
  • in summer, to provide him with a bowl of water so that he can come and quench his thirst; this will also make many other animals (birds, etc.) happy.

If a hedgehog settles in your garden, you have to leave it alone, it is a wild and protected animal.


If you find an injured hedgehog (wound, burn, etc.) or that seems sick to you (hedgehog found during the day and with signs of weakness), “You should immediately contact the nearest health center or simply call a veterinarian and explain the situation. Put the animal in a ventilated box with newspaper on the bottom and leave it alone, preferably in a cool place. adds Dr. Olivier Lambert.

“Le problème, c’est qu’en croyant bien faire, les gens tentent de soigner eux-mêmes l’animal blessé et nous le ramène qu’au bout de quelques jours et il est parfois trop tard. C’est une véritable course against the clock !”, he continues.

You will find, for example, in Loire-Atlantique the ONIRIS (Nantes) and in Mayenne the Refuge de l’Arche (Saint-Fort). In some departments there are also community care centers approved by the prefectures and dedicated mainly to this small mammal. This is the case of Maine-et-Loire (SOS Hérisson 49), Sarthe (Erinaceus France) and very recently Vendée. In the departments that do not have wildlife care centers, there are environmental protection associations, which people can contact.


The high temperatures raise fears of a significant die-off of small mammals, as occurred last May.

Wildlife protection associations recommend leaving a small container of water near places frequented by these animals.

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