Friday, 10 February 2017

Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline



More than half of people surveyed had never seen a hedgehog, once common in UK gardens

Monday 6 February 2017 06.01 GMT Last modified on Monday 6 February 2017 10.31 GMT 

The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings.

The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. 

The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

The poll’s result is in line with an in-depth analysis in 2015 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which found urban populations of hedgehogs had fallen by up to a third since 2000 and rural populations had declined by at least a half. Results from a citizen science survey run by the RSPB in June 2016 also revealed a falling number of sightings.

The decline is not entirely understood but the main factors are thought to be the loss of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside – where farming has intensified – as well as road deaths. The fragmentation of habitat is also a problem as hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates. A possible rise in badger numbers, which can eat hedgehogs, has also been suggested as a possible cause.

However the new survey did find that almost two-thirds of the people surveyed had done something to protect hedgehogs in the last year, with 36% avoiding the use of slug pellets, 34% leaving the twigs and leaves that provide shelter and more than 20% checking for hedgehogs before strimming or lighting bonfires.

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