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Boitani et al (1984) hedgehog movement activity Mediterranean

Title: Movement and activity patterns of Hedgehogs, Z. Säugetierkunde 49; 193-206. 1984

Authors: L. Boitani & G. Reggiani

Country: Italy

Background to study

A radio tracking study of hedgehogs in Mediterranean coastal maquis habitat to determine movement and activity patterns with relation to habitat types and seasons. 

Method

  • 28 hedgehogs were live captured and tagged using small numbered metal tags and weight, sex and size of captured individuals was recorded. Of these, 14 hedgehogs (5 females, 9 males all weighing over 500 g) were fitted with radio transmitters and radio-tracked for periods extending from 24 to 248 days between September 1980 and July 1981.
  • Study area consisted of wet and dry meadows (maquis), bushes, agriculture/pasture land and refuse sites.
  • 123 days of radio-tracking was achieved and consisted of night spotting of animals, extended observations of a single animal tracked at 10-15 minute intervals and day spotting of all hedgehogs.
  • Movement patterns were assessed in relation to season, habitat type, intensity of habitat use and to other hedgehogs. Home range sizes were calculated for males and females and different nest sites were located and mapped in relation to habitat type, season and sex.
  • Weights of radio-tagged hedgehogs were measured temporally to look at seasonal variation.

Key results

  • Seasonal variation in habitat use was observed and likely to be related to food availability:
    • Maquis habitat was most frequented in spring and individuals ranged furthest in this habitat type suggesting dispersed resource availability.    
    • Pasture habitat was used by hedgehogs in summer and autumn months and activity was within restricted areas, particularly within the humid zone.
    • Refuse habitat was used by the highest percentage of individuals in November.
  • The most frequented habitat was pastures and the enbankments of canals, followed by bush and dry meadows. Agricultural land and refuse sites were rarely frequented.
  • Home range size estimates ranged from 5.5 ha in the period preceding hibernation to 102.5 ha and this did not correlate to the number of fixes obtained from different individuals, nor was it significantly different between males and females
  • Hedgehogs showed spatial avoidance of conspecifics, never being closer than 20 m from another individual, apart from during reproduction which lasted from 21st March to October.
  • Mating individuals persued opposite sex individuals for < 3 months where approximately 4 encounters per month were observed.
  • Hedgehogs hibernated for two months in January and February.
  • 120 nests were located, 28% within bushes, 25% under brambles, 22% in tall grass and rarely were they located under thickets of Quercus pubescens, at the base of reed clumps and under pine needles.
  • Nest distribution was closely linked to the habitats being utilised during a particular season, with nests in grass being found primarily in summer, and of 7 winter nests located, 6 were located under brambles.
  • 60% of all nests were used more than once and each hedgehog used more than one nest and use of a particular nests lasted between 1 and 169 days.
  • Seasonal changes in weight were observed which peaked in autumn and was lowest at the end of winter.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Hedgehog surveys should be carried out across seasons to account for seasonal variation in habitat use.
  • Hedgehog nests should be left in-situ with limited disturbance as they may be re-utilised.
  • Wide grassy/bushy margins should be established around agricultural fields as these areas are unfavourable to hedgehogs and thus may prevent dispersal and access to suitable resources.
  • Scrub areas should be encouraged and managed sensitively where hedgehog presence is considered likely as these provide suitable nesting sites, particularly for hibernation.
  • Unmanaged grassy margins to pasture fields should be encouraged to provide summer nesting/resting up areas for hedgehogs, particularly during summer.

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