Earlier this week, the first National Hedgehog Census was launched by Hedgehog Street. Hedgehog Street is a campaign set up by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). The aim of Hedgehog Street is to help combat declining hedgehog populations thought to be a result of loss of hedgerows and changes to farming practices in the UK. Populations are thought to have declined by up to a third in urban areas and at least half in rural areas since 2000.
Between now and the end of October 2017, the Hedgehog Housing Census is going to explore hedgehog habitats including the prevalence and effectiveness of artificial hedgehog houses. This information will be gleaned using an online survey which will be filled out by 44, 000 Hedgehog Champions across the UK.
Questions will include:
- Is your hedgehog house used?
- Is it used for summer nesting, as a maternity nest, or for hibernation?
- What materials is it made from?
- Is it homemade or shop bought?
- Where is it located?
- What’s the best design?
If you would like to become a Hedgehog Champion, you can sign up here.
Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street said: “We know thousands of people across the UK have hedgehog houses in their gardens, but what we don’t know is whether they actually benefit hedgehogs. No one has conducted this type of research before, so our results will help inform current advice on how best to use a hedgehog house. Through the Hedgehog Housing Census we will investigate the nation’s hedgehog homes, to find out what works best for hedgehogs, which in turn will help our ongoing conservation work.”
The data will then be studied by scientists at the University of Reading. This information can be used in hedgehog conservation to ensure that this species remains in gardens across the UK in the future.
Abigail Gazzard, Postgraduate Researcher for the University of Reading explains: “Hedgehogs are one of the UK’s most popular wildlife species, yet their populations are in decline. Consequently, there is the need to identify which factors positively or negatively affect hedgehog populations so that we can help to reverse this decline. In urban areas, local residents are in a prime position to help us achieve this. We first need to understand why hedgehogs appear to use some gardens and not others, so that we can provide evidence-based guidance on what householders can do to help this iconic species. This questionnaire survey will be the first to investigate how successful hedgehog houses might be in helping to provide sites for resting, breeding and hibernating, and is one of a series of collaborative projects between BHPS, PTES and the University of Reading to help gather such evidence.”
The results will be published in spring 2018.