Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hedgehogs' inky paw prints point to sparse distribution

By Michelle WarwickerBBC Nature
Hedgehogs are more thinly spread in the UK than previously believed, a study using ink pads to record their paw prints has revealed.

The nocturnal mammals were found at only 39% of sites surveyed.

Experts and volunteers set up tunnels baited with tinned sausages. Hedgehogs had to walk over ink pads to reach the food, leaving their prints on paper.

The method allowed researchers to identify hedgehog presence with almost complete accuracy for the first time.

The research, which was carried out by scientists from Nottingham Trent University, the University of Reading and The Mammal Society, is published in the journal Mammal Review.

Hedgehog populations in the UK are believed to be in rapid decline.

The new study builds a picture about how they are distributed in urban and rural areas. The finding that hedgehogs were only present in 39% of locations visited was "lower than anticipated", said research team member Dr Richard Yarnell, from Nottingham Trent University's School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

"Historically we thought that hedgehogs were pretty well distributed across the country," he told BBC Nature.

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