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article imageUK hedgehog population in decline

By Lynn Curwin     Jun 2, 2011 in Environment
The hedgehog population in the UK has declined by about 25 per cent during the past 10 years, and there are concerns that numbers will continue to drop unless steps are taken.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) have released The State of Britain's Hedgehogs 2011. It states that the numbers are falling in both urban and rural areas.
Five surveys, running over several years, were analysed.
"All the surveys showed declines between 1996 and 2010, and five of the measures were statistically significant declines," states David Wembridge in the report. The evidence is now very strong that hedgehogs are in trouble."
Data from earlier studies had resulted in hedgehogs being declared a priority conservation species in 2007.
Wembridge said that in the 1950s the hedgehog population was estimated at around 30 million, but by 1995 had gone down to about 1.5 million.
Reasons for the decrease in population include intensive agriculture - with the loss of hedgerows and grassland, fencing that prevents movement between gardens, and populations becoming isolated due to road and building construction. The use of pesticides has resulted in less prey for the hedgehogs, and many are killed by vehicles.
On its website, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society states that there have been reports of hedgehogs getting tangled up in discarded elastic bands dropped by postal carriers.
Writing in The Guardian, Hugh Warwick said that he does many talks about hedgehogs, and has never had an audience that has recently seen more hedgehogs.
"The talk I hear is not of something in the region of a 25% decline; people are regularly reporting a complete absence of hedgehogs, where once they were plentiful," he stated.
The PTES and BHPS have formed a campaign to help these animals by recording sightings through wildlife surveys, studying reasons for the decline in numbers and working on ways to stop it.
They launched Hedgehog Street to encourage people to create hedgehog-friendly neighbourhoods. Some of the things people can do are as simple as planting hedges, and making small holes in fences.
Hedgehogs, which are nocturnal, feed mainly on slugs, beetles, snails and worms. They spend much of the period between November and the end of March hibernating.
HogWatch has a section online for people to report hedgehog sightings.
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