Hedgehog numbers in Britain set to hit record low

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HEDGEHOGS have never been in such a prickly place with their numbers crashing to record lows, a summit to save the vanishing creature will hear today


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A new report has revealed the threats towards hedgehogs

The animal voted as Britain’s “national species” two years ago is fast vanishing from both the countryside and also those urban oases where it provides people with a vital link to nature.

From Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to the video gamer’s Sonic the Hedgehog, the small, hibernating creature, originally known as the urchin, is much-loved but under serious threat.

Stark statistics spell out the hedgehog’s plight. Since 2000, it has declined by a half in rural areas and by a third in our towns and cities.

Far fewer than a million now snort their way through  hedgerows and garden borders.

Wherever the creature turns, it faces adversity.

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Loss of habitat and fenced in gardens is adding to plight of hedgehogs

The loss of habitat and intensive farming in rural areas, along with tidy, fenced-in gardens, are just some of the threats contributing to the demise of hedgehogs, supporters of a creature enshrined in our folklore, literature and culture will hear at today’s Hedgehog Summit in Telford, Shropshire.

To help thwart its demise, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) will be launching a joint, 10-year conservation strategy for the animal in Britain.

The need for action is highlighted in a new report from both organisations which reveals the threats and analyses the data from a series of surveys charting the hedgehog’s decline.

In 2011, following the first attempt to review the status of hedgehogs, experts concluded: “At a conservative estimate a quarter of the population [had] been lost’ in the first decade of this century”.

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Farming has also added to the threats faced by hedgehogs

Now, In the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015, the PTES and BHPS warn:

“This report updates the findings from 2011, analysing data from four surveys between 2000 and 2014. The picture suggests a continuing decline, in both rural and urban landscapes. Since 2000, rural populations have declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third in the same period.”

For Henry Johnson, Hedgehog Offier at the PTES, the loss of these endearing animals is much cause for concern.

“Hedgehogs are important because their presence indicates a healthy environment,” he explains. “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 call to arms is well underway with animal lovers being urged by both charities to log on towww.hedgehogstreet.org so they can:

• Become a Hedgehog Champion and get simple advice on making your garden and neighbourhood more hedgehog-friendly;

• Pledge to make a small hole – no bigger than a CD case – in a garden fence, wall and other barriers so that hedgehogs can access different gardens in their search for food, shelter and mates;

• Log sightings – dead or alive – on The BIG Hedgehog Map.

One of the key findings from the new report will stick in the craw of badger cull supporters who have justified killing the animals as a way of protecting hedgehogs.

The report concludes: “Recent work suggests much arable farmland is poor quality for hedgehogs, with few good foraging areas or nesting sites. Research into the sorts of habitat features that benefit hedgehogs is currently underway…

“Although records of badgers increased significantly in Living with Mammals over the same period, there was no indication that, where the two species co- exist, badgers are causing the decrease in hedgehog numbers.

“The downward hedgehog trend is the same whether badgers are present or not. Badgers do kill and eat hedgehogs but environmental factors frame their relationship and may be more important in supporting both.”

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