Hedgehog Decline

This issue is not a straight forward one as there could be many factors contributing to the decline of the hedghog populations. It is further complicated by populations declining in both rural and urban habitats where pressures and changes in the environment are very different.

PTES and BHPS are currently commissioning various research into the reasons for their decline and measures which could be taken to reverse the effects. Some possible factors are listed below but this list is not comprehensive. What is apparent is that while the countryside matters may take more time to change, the urban and suburban environment is in our control and so immediate changes could be made to offer a safe refuge for hedgehogs, at least in the interim.

LOSS OF HEDGEROWS has a negative effect on hedgehogs as a good quality hedgerow provides shelter, food, protection from predators and a place to hibernate. Hedgerow removal on a large scale began during the Second World War and although the loss has now halted, mismanagement and neglect still threaten the habitat.

ROUGH FIELD EDGES are fewer in number since intensified farming practices over the past few decades have led to fewer, larger fields which offer less foraging areas close to field edges.

PESTICIDE USE in rural areas has increased as a result of the move to increase food production across our countryside. This is likely to have heavily impacted on hedgehogs by killing off a large proportion of their invertebrate food supply.

FRAGMENTED HABITATS affect hedgehogs, as well as other native species, as they suffer from the changes in our countryside management and urban development. Layering new hedgerows to restore rural connectivity will eventually improve things for hedgehogs in the long term if they are correctly managed but new roads and urban development need more mitigation measures.

LOSS OF SUITABLE REFUGES IN THE URBAN HABITAT affects hedgehogs. With changes to the countryside, hedgehogs, like foxes, have adapted well to living in semi-urban environments, particularly when kind homeowners provide extra food. However moves towards impenetrable garden boundaries, tidiness and aesthetics appear to have had an affect our our town-dwelling hog populations too.

BADGERS are known to predate hedgehogs but as this has always been the case, this is only likely to be a big problem for populations if other factors are also acting to reduce hedgehog numbers.