Hedgehogs and climate
Finding out how our changing climate may be affecting hedgehog survival
As hibernating mammals, the uncertainty caused by warmer, wetter winters, predicted under existing climate models for the UK, may have detrimental impacts on hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are known to periodically awake from hibernation and forage for short periods during warm winter spells. With warmer winters, these periods of winter waking may be increasing. This poses problems if the energy lost during winter waking is not replaced due to the lack of food sources available in the winter.
We funded intern Saadia Khan, based at the University of Leicester, to find out whether warmer and wetter winters are impacting invertebrate food sources for hedgehogs. Saadia specifically looked at invertebrate abundance in the urban environments. She investigated if changing climatic conditions are affecting hedgehog survival during winter waking.
Existing research on hedgehog activity is already under way at 12 sites at the University of Leicester. Saadia built on this work by using footprint tracking tunnels to monitor hedgehog activity over winter. She also put out data loggers to determine whether the frequency with which hedgehogs forage over winter has any relationship to the ambient temperature. By sampling for ground beetles, earthworks and slugs, Saadia will also be able to assess what food is available for hedgehogs over winter. The results from this study will help us understand how a changing climate is affecting British hedgehogs. Her report can be found here.