Hedgehogs and stoats in dramatic decline

The number of hedgehogs in Scoland's gardens has  fallen.
The number of hedgehogs in Scoland's gardens has fallen.
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The number of hedgehogs and stoats in Scottish gardens dropped dramatically last year, a study has found.

The proportion of householders who said they had spotted a hedgehog in their garden fell by 10 per cent to 57 per cent compared with 12 months earlier, according to a survey by RSPB Scotland.

Meanwhile, the number of stoats fell by 6 per cent over the same period, according to the poll of almost 15,000 wildlife enthusiasts, with just under a quarter of people saying they had seen them at all.

Foxes were the most common garden visitor, being spotted in 64 per cent of outdoor spaces. But great crested newts are only found in a few areas of Scotland and participants from just 2 per cent of gardens recorded sightings of the elusive amphibians.

Moles, which only occasionally come to the surface, remained elusive to the majority of the 9,700 gardens that recorded wildlife, with the creatures – or one of their more familiar molehills – going unseen in 44 per cent of outdoor spaces.

James Silvey, all nature species and habitat officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “Gardens and outdoor spaces are often where we have our first experience with nature, such as blackbirds singing from fences or foxes dashing past. Unfortunately, such garden wildlife and the sounds and sights it creates are becoming less and less familiar for many people.

“There are lots of ways that we can make our outdoor spaces great homes for nature where wildlife can thrive. From making feeders for your garden birds to building a cosy home for a hedgehog, or simply letting the grass grow to provide an important refuge for invertebrates, simple steps like this can make a big difference to local wildlife.”

The charity has launched its call for people to take part in this year’s Wild Challenge by watching out for animals in their gardens and taking part in a range of activities, from mini-beast safaris to rock pooling to creating a hedgehog café and planting for ­wildlife, in a bid to spot wild creatures.

Jasper Hamlet, youth and families officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “Whether your motivation is happy healthy children, getting out in nature and spending time together as a family exploring your local area or giving nature a home and helping wildlife, there is a whole heap of Wild Challenge activities to do help you do this.”