Hope for hedgehogs as numbers in Britain’s towns show signs of recovery
Britain’s urban hedgehogs are showing signs of recovery, according to a new report, but rural populations have fallen by as much as 75% in some regions in just 20 years.
The charismatic prickly creature, voted the UK’s favourite mammal in 2016, has experienced a dramatic fall in numbers since the turn of the millennium due to loss of habitat, attacks by dogs, vanishing prey and being killed by traffic. However, new analysis of hedgehog surveys has revealed a stark distinction between the fortunes of the town and country hedgehog, with clear signs the urban population has stabilised and may even be on the up.
Counting the nocturnal mammal is difficult, with the total UK population believed to be about 879,000 in 2018. They are now listed as vulnerable to extinction in Britain’s red list for mammals and are the subject of significant conservation efforts, with campaigns to create ‘hedgehog highways’ to connect habitats and more than 100,000 ‘hedgehog champions’.
The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report, produced by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), brings together data from five ongoing surveys, with the two urban counts showing an upward trend and an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 hedgehogs in suburban and inner-city green spaces.
‘We’ve known for a long time there has been a historic decline in hedgehogs. But the report highlights the difference between urban and rural populations,’ said Fay Vass, head of the BHPS.
‘The rural populations are continuing to plummet. They’ve been declining by 30% to 75% across different areas of the countryside since the year 2000. In contrast, the urban hedgehog seems to have stabilised and might even be starting to recover after having previously also been in freefall. So that’s a glimmer of hope.’
The outlook for rural hedgehogs remains bleak, according to the report. While the east Midlands and east of England are home to some of the country’s largest population densities, they have also experienced significant declines, falling 74% and 35% respectively since 1994. In the last decade, the loss has been a third and a quarter of their respective hedgehog populations, according to the report.
The mammals, which have been in Britain for at least half a million years, are primarily threatened by habitat loss and the accompanying lack of prey such as beetles and earthworms. Conservationists are trying to better understand the declines in the countryside and are working with farmers to help them better manage their land for the animals.
Hugh Warwick, an ecologist who is leading a national campaign to make hedgehog highways a legal requirement on new housing developments, said- ‘We’ve got a slight uptick [in urban populations]. That’s really exciting but we must be cautious. It’s got to be put in the context of a massively degraded situation already.’
To help the animal’s recovery, Warwick encourages gardeners to embrace messier gardens. ‘We must get rid of the cult of tidiness. It’s an absurd cult, which is driven by gardening programmes and glossy magazines. Gardens should be a place that we share with nature,’ he said.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University are also investigating the relationship between badger and hedgehog populations, with evidence that the presence of badgers negatively affects the prickly creatures. Most abundant in the south-west of England and south Wales, badgers prey on hedgehogs and compete with them for food.
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
Read Also- Latest News | Current Affairs News | Today News | English News | World News Today
TimesofNation.com offer news and information like- English newspaper today | today English news | English news live | times of India | today news in English in India | breaking news in India today | India TV news today & Hindustan times.
You can Read on TimesofNation.com latest news today, breaking news headlines, Top news. Discover national and international news on economy, politics, defence, sports, world news & other relatively current affair’s news.