Do hedgehogs fare better in the town or the countryside? The answer might seem obvious, but new research suggests they are actually more likely to live on the edge of urban or suburban areas than in an agricultural landscape.
The study set out to investigate how rural hedgehogs were doing in England and Wales, and its findings suggest they are increasingly drawn to human habitation. “The greater the built environment, the greater the chance of finding hedgehogs,” says the paper’s lead author Ben Williams.
Williams says farmland may now not provide sufficient invertebrates (such as earthworms) for hedgehogs, perhaps because they are declining as a result of pesticide use. In contrast, urban road verges – despite the danger posed by busy highways – could offer Britain’s favourite mammal food and shelter.
The study also revealed that hedgehogs do less well where badger population density is higher. “Nationally, our study found hedgehogs in about 21 per cent of areas surveyed,” Williams says. “We estimate that if we were to remove all badgers from the UK, occupancy would rise to about 32 per cent.”
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), which co-funded the study along with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said the results pointed to a “wider land-management issue in our countryside”, affecting both hedgehogs and badgers. JF
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Scientific Reports: nature.com/articles/ s41598-018-30130-4
You’re more likely to see hedgehogs in urban areas than the countryside.