Research Press Release

Ecology: Monitoring rural hedgehog populations

Scientific Reports

September 7, 2018

Factors that may threaten rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales are assessed in a study in Scientific Reports this week. The paper reports the results of a national survey of rural hedgehog populations, which the authors say can be used as a baseline for future monitoring of hedgehog numbers.

Factors that may threaten rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales are assessed in a study in Scientific Reports this week. The paper reports the results of a national survey of rural hedgehog populations, which the authors say can be used as a baseline for future monitoring of hedgehog numbers.

Using footprint-tracking tunnels to check for the presence of hedgehogs, Ben Williams and colleagues surveyed 261 sites in different habitats in England and Wales between 2014 and 2015. The authors detected the presence of hedgehogs in only 55 sites indicating that much of the countryside may be uninhabited by the animals.

Previous research into hedgehog decline has been focused on the negative effects of the animals’ interactions with badgers. The survey highlights that in areas with a high concentration of badger setts there are often lower numbers of hedgehogs. The authors acknowledge that badgers have a negative impact, through predation and competition for food resources, but their research identifies areas where the two species coexist. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between the two species. The research also shows that in 70 of the surveyed sites neither badgers nor hedgehogs were present suggesting that some rural areas cannot support either species. The authors argue that this may be because of intensive land management, which has reduced prey and suitable habitat sites.

DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-30130-4 | Original article

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