New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2021) 45(2): 3448

European hedgehogs rear young and enter hibernation in New Zealand’s alpine zones

Research Article
Nicholas J. Foster 1*
Richard F. Maloney 2
Mariano R. Recio 3,4
Philip J. Seddon 1
Yolanda van Heezik 1
  1. University of Otago, Department of Zoology, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. King Juan Carlos University, Móstoles, Spain
  4. Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
*  Corresponding author

European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) live in New Zealand’s high alpine zones, but it is not known if populations persist in such areas year-round. We hypothesised that hedgehogs respond to the arrival of winter conditions (cold temperatures, snowfall, and lack of available food) by making short-distance altitudinal migrations to lower elevations. We tested this by capturing and fitting GPS/VHF backpacks to six adult female hedgehogs at elevations between 1500 and 1800 m, and by following their movements throughout the austral summer to winter period (January to June) 2020. We found no evidence to suggest that hedgehogs abandon their summer/autumn home ranges and move to lower elevations with the arrival of winter conditions, which indicates that at least a proportion of hedgehogs enter hibernation in New Zealand’s alpine zones. Two females were found rearing young above 1600 m, further indicating that hedgehogs are resident species in these zones.