Hedge­hog head­count

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

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

FIND OUT MORE

Sci­en­tific Re­ports: na­ture.com/ar­ti­cles/ s41598-018-30130-4

You’re more likely to see hedge­hogs in ur­ban ar­eas than the coun­try­side.

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