How Long Do Hedgehogs Live? - Hedgehog Lifespan
The hedgehog lifespan will vary according to species. All hedgehogs are part of the taxonomic family Erinaceidae and they make up all the members of the subfamily Erinaceinae. 17 species of hedgehog have been officially recognized, although there may be others yet to be discovered. Not all hedgehog species have been domesticated and not all species of hedgehogs kept as pets are necessarily domesticated. They are known for their distinctive spines, but there are many factors which can affect their health and wellbeing. These will determine their longevity.
At AnimalWised, we ask how long do hedgehogs live? We find out the expected lifespan of domestic and wild hedgehog species, as well as what factors influence how long they might live.
How long does a domestic hedgehog live?
As stated in the introduction, not all hedgehogs which are kept as pets have been truly domesticated. Domestication of a wild species takes a long time and requires a lot of work to influence the animal genetically. Unfortunately, many pet owners have taken to adopting hedgehogs which are not domestic species. This is often thanks to unscrupulous members of the pet trade who value profit over animal welfare.
Despite the issues with this trade, hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular as pets. This has led to increased legislation to try to protect the hedgehog. It is also important in protecting local wildlife as non-native hedgehog species can threaten to become an invasive species. This has led to regulations and even prohibition in some countries.
With that context, we can look at the average lifespan of the domestic hedgehog species:
Four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris)
Also known as the African pygmy hedgehog, this species is native to Africa. Its natural habitat extends into the western, eastern and central regions of the continent. It is a fairly commercialized type of hedgehog, with an increasingly high demand in the pet trade in the United States.
The life expectancy of the African pygmy hedgehog in captivity is approximately 11 years. Before deciding to adopt this type of hedgehog, we recommend consulting the current legislation in your country.
North African hedgehog (Atelerix algirus)
Native to both North Africa and the Mediterranean region, this is another of the hedgehogs marketed as a companion animal. In captivity, it is a type of hedgehog that can live between approximately 8 and 10 years. Although research has not reached a consensus, it is estimated their wild counterparts do not live as long
Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)
Its original distribution ranges from the Eastern Mediterranean to southwestern Asia, including southwestern Pakistan, eastern Ukraine, Mongolia and China. Little is known about this species in the wild. Regarding its lifespan in captivity, it has an average lifespan of 6-8 years.
Indian long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus collaris)
The Indian long-eared hedgehog is native to South Asia, Pakistan and India. It is also starting to be kept as a pet, but there are no reliable studies on its longevity in captivity. However, since it differs practically only by its larger size from its long-eared relative, we could estimate a similar lifespan of 6-8 years.
Other domestic hedgehogs
The following hedgehog species are less commonly kept as pets, but it is known how long they live in these conditions:
- European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) between 10 and 12 years old.
- Forest hedgehogs (Erinaceus spp.): c. 8 years.
- Desert hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus): 10 years.
How long does a wild hedgehog live?
It is common for many animals in the wild to live shorter lives than in captivity, including hedgehogs. This is because they are subject to the often difficult challenges of their habitats. Often this is related to being part of a food web where larger predators will hunt them as prey. There are also other factors such as scarcity of their own food and climactic conditions. Learn more with our article on what are trophic levels?
Although there are 17 recognized species of hedgehog, there may be some taxonomic variations. This usually depends on the source as there is not always a consensus among zoologists. On average, the life expectancy of the wild hedgehog is between 3 and 8 years of age. To find out how long a wild hedgehog lives, we use the following most common species as examples:
- European or common hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus): between 6 and 8 years.
- North African hedgehog (Atelerix algirus): 7 years.
- Forest hedgehogs (Erinaceus spp.) : 3 to 5 years.
- Desert Hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus): 3 to 4 years.
- Southern African hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis): 3 years.
It is important to note that the values indicated are generally averages or estimates. Some individuals may have a shorter or longer lifespan due to many variables which affect the lives of wild animals.
Learn about an animal often confused with the hedgehog in our article on tenrec characteristics and care.
What affects the life expectancy of hedgehogs?
There are several factors that affect the life expectancy of a hedgehog. While their natural habitat provides various threats, the encroachment of urban spaces on their living space appears to have created the most significant threats. In addition to natural dangers such as predators, hedgehogs are susceptible to the following threats which can greatly affect their longevity and lifespan:
- Traffic collisions: especially during their first years of life, hedgehogs are vulnerable to being run over by vehicles. In many urban areas where hedgehogs thrive, it is common to see dead specimens on the road. This is influenced by the fact that some species of hedgehogs have found appropriate food and shelter conditions in humanized space. This has led to an increased presence in habitats such as urban and suburban spaces. Some are even preferring to live in these places rather than in natural habitat, but at the same time they undergo events like the one mentioned.
- Habitat fragmentation: many natural areas are being affected by the fragmentation of ecosystems which affects not only hedgehogs, but also all the biodiversity that lives in those spaces. The level of alteration to an ecosystem can be lethal for individual animals and devastating for entire species. This not only affects the hedgehogs themselves, but also the animals that they feed on such as insects.
- Lack of food and disease: a lack of food due to climate change and habitat fragmentation is considered a significant risk to the hedgehog life expectancy. Diseases caused by parasites or other types of infections are also important threats. These problems have been increasing due to the dynamics of alteration caused by human activities. Learn more about what hedgehogs eat with our article on feeding a hedgehog.
- Poisonings: poisonings have also been considered frequent due to the attempts to kill other wildlife considered pests. The hedgehog often consumes the toxic substances by mistake.
- Problems during hibernation: there are species of hedgehog that hibernate. If they are not properly prepared before entering this state of torpor, they can die. This is usually due to either consuming insufficient food or not preparing the burrow properly. Similarly, if they wake up early from hibernation and there is no food available, this can affect their survival. In some cases, they can become exposed to predators and become more vulnerable, further increasing mortality rates of hedgehogs.
Many of the hedgehogs that are subjected to some of these threats have been abandoned to their fate after being adopted as companion animals. When the animal does not meet the expectations of cuteness or interaction which is suggested by videos on social media, an irresponsible pet owner may release them into their local community. This abandonment threatens the life of the individual hedgehog and can upset the balance of the local ecosystem.
It is important to assess very well if we are going to be able to cover the basic needs of an animal before deciding to adopt one into our home. Abandonment should never be an option. Similarly, hedgehogs are prohibited as pets in many countries, so it is preferable to let them live in their natural habitat without disturbing them.
Learn more about the habitat of hedgehogs with our article on where do hedgehogs live?
If you want to read similar articles to How Long Do Hedgehogs Live? - Hedgehog Lifespan, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.
- Ciszek, D., & P. Myers (2000). Erinaceidae Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Erinaceidae/
- IUCN (2023). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2. Retrieved from: https://www.iucnredlist.org