Hedgehogs on the Edge: but some hope in gardens?

March 19th 2018
A worrying new report shows hedgehog numbers have dropped by half in the British countryside over the last two decades.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018, published jointly by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), is the only comprehensive review of the status of Britain’s hedgehogs.  This new report shows that hedgehogs in rural areas are in severe decline, with their numbers plummeting by half since the Millennium.

The graph below shows standardised counts of hedgehog road casualties (rural and urban) in PTES’ Mammals on Roads study. The solid line shows the smoothed trend or underlying change, and the circles, annual estimates. Between 2002 and 2017, the estimated numbers fell by half.

It is exciting to think that the combined efforts of thousands of volunteers who have joined Hedgehog Street and pledged to make their gardens more hedgehog-friendly, may be making a difference. PTES and BHPS launched Hedgehog Street in 2011 to inspire the British public to help hedgehogs and other wildlife that depend on their gardens and, so far, over 47,000 Hedgehog Champions have signed up to help.

Wilson concludes: “Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, so we need more people in those locations to sign up as Hedgehog Champions.  Hedgehogs are a generalist species, so the more people can do to help them in their own back garden, the more they will also benefit other wildlife.” 

How to help hedgehogs:

Visit www.hedgehogstreet.org and:
  • Become a Hedgehog Champion and find simple advice on making your garden and neighbourhood more hedgehog-friendly
  • Pledge to make a small hole – no bigger than a CD case – in your garden fence, wall and other barriers so that hedgehogs can access different gardens in their search for food, shelter and mates
  • Log your ‘hog sightings – dead or alive – on The BIG Hedgehog Map

“There are many reasons hedgehogs are in trouble,” explains Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street, a public action campaign run by BHPS and PTES. “The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas.”

Whilst The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report highlights a worrying decline in our countryside, it shows a more positive outlook for hedgehogs in our towns and cities: although the species has declined by a third in urban areas since 2000, the rate of decline is slowing. Hedgehogs are not disappearing from urban green spaces as rapidly as they were fifteen years ago, and might even be returning. Where they are found, numbers too, appear to be growing in some places.

The graph below shows results from the PTES' Living with Mammals study based in gardens and local urban areas.  The blue line shows the proportion of the surveys that found hedgehogs, and we can see that the rate of decline has slowed and nearly stopped.  The red triangles are an index of the number of animals recorded, and this shows an increase since 2014.  A similar upward trend appeared in the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey which also recorded hedgehogs.
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