Charities call on volunteers to help survey threatened hedgehogs
Hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining by three to five per cent each year in towns and in the rural landscape, with the loss most apparent in the South West, South East and Eastern regions of England, according to the results of a ten-year trend analysis by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).
Between 2001 and 2011, records of hedgehogs in the Trust's annual Mammals on Roads survey fell by 32 per cent; over a similar period, 2003 to 2012, records of hedgehogs in green urban and suburban spaces, documented in the yearly Living with Mammals survey, fell by 37 per cent.
The ten-year analysis of these two surveys further supports evidence highlighted in The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs (a report in 2011 by PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society) that hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining dramatically. The trends show a loss as rapid as that of the world's tigers and, in the bird world, would be given a ‘red alert’ listing.
“Continuous monitoring each year is vital to help us build a more complete picture of the state of the UK’s wild mammal populations,” explains PTES Surveys Officer David Wembridge. “Over the last twenty years or so, the world’s tiger population is thought to have halved. Although they are very different animals and there are many fewer tigers left in the wild, the fact that we are losing hedgehogs in Britain as quickly, should ring alarm bells as loudly.”
In an effort to gather further data about hedgehogs, PTES and BHPS are appealing to volunteers to take part in the Hedgehog Hibernation Survey which starts on Friday 1 February. Now in its second year, this survey is in an attempt to find out more about the creature's patterns of behaviour, which in turn will help inform practical conservation action.
PTES CEO Jill Nelson says: “Last year, more than 2,000 volunteers helped collect the biggest dataset on hedgehog hibernation habits ever recorded. What we urgently need is more information at the local level to help us better understand the challenges faced by the nation’s hedgehogs.”
To join in the Hibernation Survey, which starts on 1 February 2013, visit Hedgehog Street
The reasons for the decline in UK hedgehog numbers are complex, but are thought to be associated with the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands; the intensification of agriculture and larger field sizes; and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available. While urban and suburban areas have becoming increasingly important for hedgehog survival, with gardens in particular recording the highest average number of wild mammals among typically urban sites, the move towards tidy, sterile gardens has also contributed to their demise.