Thursday, 5 March 2015

Our humble hedgehog is disappearing fast

The much-loved species faces an uncertain future after a dramatic decline in numbers

6:15AM GMT 05 Mar 2015

They’ve been around for 15 million years; hedgehogs roamed Britain with mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers. But in a single lifetime the much-loved mammals have been driven towards extinction, their national population apparently plummeting more than thirtyfold.

As Philip Larkin wrote in The Mower – a poem composed after he killed a hedgehog while cutting long grass – we have “mauled” their “unobtrusive world”. And their decline is all the more significant since – like butterflies – they are known to be an “indicator species”, whose fate mirrors what is happening to the natural world as a whole.

There has never been a full national census of hedgehogs in Britain but, back in the Fifties – extrapolating from limited data – it was estimated that there were 36.5 million of them. In 1995 a better, but still incomplete, survey put their numbers at just 1.55 million.

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