Britain’s hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline with numbers falling by half in rural areas and by a third in urban locations since 2000, a new report published today by conservations charities reveals.
The loss of hedgerows and intensive farming in rural areas coupled with pristine fenced-in gardens in urban and suburban locations are among the threats contributing to the demise of the much-loved species.
“The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015” by wildlife charities the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the The Britain Hedgehog Preservation Society will be discussed today at a UK summit on hedgehogs.
In the early 20th century hedgehogs were believed to be abundant throughout Britain. But it was not until the 1990s onwards that a clearer picture of population numbers emerged through the work of Pat Morris who recruited volunteers to record counts of hedgehog casualties along roads to assess changing numbers.
In 1995 the estimated population of hedgehogs in Great Britain was 1.55 million - 1.1 million in England, 0.31 million in Scotland and 0.145 million in Wales. But by 2010 numbers were approximately under one million.
Today’s The Day of the Hedgehog event will also see the launch of a 10-year conservation strategy.
Henry Johnson, hedgehog officer with the PTES, said: “Hedgehogs are important because their presence indicates a healthy environment. To see a generalist animal like this decline is very ominous because they are in many ways so tolerant of human activity.
“On the flip side, it’s encouraging to know that whatever we do to help hedgehogs will also benefit other wildlife.”
The two charities are appealing for more volunteers to join Hedgehog Street, which encourages people to connect their gardens and other green spaces to improve hedgehogs’ access to food, shelter and mates.
Since its launch in 2011, Hedgehog Street has inspired over 36,000 volunteer “Hedgehog Champions” to create hedgehog-friendly neighbourhoods by linking up their gardens and green spaces.
In 2003 Scotland’s hedgehogs were the target of a controversial £1.3 million cull in the Western Isles backed by Scottish Natural Heritage after fears the hedgehogs were contributing to the declining number of wader birds by eating their eggs.
However, despite over 1,500 hedgehogs being killed by lethal injection or rehomed, a report found farming practices and predatory herring gulls could have played a significant role.