National Hedgehog Survey

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What is the National Hedgehog Survey?

Long-term studies by ourselves, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and the British Trust for Ornithology have found that hedgehogs have undergone a drastic decline within Britain over the last two decades (see State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2011). Our humble hedgehog is now listed as a species of principal importance to protect.

That is why a new National Hedgehog Survey is being carried out by University of Reading and Nottingham Trent University, in collaboration with British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species– and most importantly by you!

Until recently it has been difficult to find out how our nations’ hedgehogs are being affected by certain factors because of the lack of a suitable and reliable technique to study them. However, a recent pilot study by The Mammal Society, the University of Reading and Nottingham Trent University has demonstrated that special ‘footprint-tunnels’ meet this need.

Therefore, we are now seizing the opportunity to conduct a national survey of hedgehogs in England and Wales to try and save them.

Why are hedgehogs endangered?

The devastating loss of this iconic British animal is potentially linked to a range of factors that this survey will be investigating, including:

  • Agricultural intensification:
    Modern farming is associated with practices that are likely to have negatively affected hedgehogs, such as the destruction of hedgerows to create larger fields and the use of chemicals which might reduce the availability of their insect and other bug prey.
  • An increase in badgers:
    Badgers are the only animals that can unroll and kill hedgehogs. Their numbers have increased by more than 85% since the mid-1980s.
  • An increase in roads and traffic:
    Collisions with vehicles is one of the most common forms of mortality in hedgehog populations. Roads may also act as barriers to the movement of hedgehogs, isolating populations and making them more vulnerable to dying off  in that area.
  • Climate change:
    Changes to our climate during the summer could reduce the ability of hedgehogs to build up enough fat reserves prior to hibernation. Changes during the winter might make them more likely to come out of hibernation when there is little or no food available. Furthermore, localised flooding is also likely to pose a risk to hedgehogs which are breeding or hibernating in nests on the ground.

What is the survey aiming to find out?

Together we are trying to find out:

  • The presence / absence of hedgehogs in rural habitats across England and Wales using footprint-tunnels.
  • The importance of different factors such as habitat features, land management practices and badgers, on where hedgehogs are found in rural habitats across England and Wales.
  • A baseline measure of hedgehog occupancy at a national level in England and Wales, against which future changes can be measured.

Overall, we want to survey a minimum of 400 chosen sites across England and Wales during the summers of 2014 and 2015.

The results will empower us to take suitable urgent action where it is most needed to save hedgehogs.

Take part

If you live in England or Wales you can help us to complete the National Hedgehog Survey at pre-selected sites, mostly in the countryside. (The study is not being conducted in Scotland because the survey areas are associated with up-to-date information on badger density not available here.)

Please note that you will need to commit to monitor 10 tunnels over five consecutive nights in a 1km square that will be allocated to you; you will also need one extra day to arrange your survey with landowners.

You can join in any time during May–September in 2015. We will make sure you have all equipment and guidance you need. Read further details about what’s involved and see our FAQs.

The survey has now finished for this year.

Other ways to help and record hedgehogs

Don’t worry if you aren’t able to join in with this survey. We have a number of other simple ways you can help save hedgehogs before it is too late.

  • Add one off sightings and map holes on our new BIG hedgehog map on the Hedgehog Street site.
  • Become a Hedgehog Champion for your neighbourhood via Hedgehog Street. Make a simple hole in your fence for hedgehogs and lots of other ways to help.
  • Help us to continue our species saving work by making a gift to pay for a hedgehog footprint tunnel or other equipment.

Thank you.