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Hof et al (2012) hedgehog factors presence farmland

Title: Factors affecting hedgehog presence on farmland as assessed by a questionnaire survey, Acta Theologica 57; 79-88. 2012

Authors: A.R. Hof & P.W. Bright

Country: UK

Background to study

A questionnaire survey to establish hedgehog presence on UK farmlands and the factors determining presence at a landscape and local scale.

Method

  • 4000 postal questionnaires were distributed to randomly selected landowners across the UK in 2006.
  • Data obtained from questionnaires included; presence of hedgehogs, postal code, size of farm, % cover of grassland, woodland and arable land, length of hedgerows, type of farm, organic status, type and duration of agri-environment scheme.
  • Additional environmental variables including; environmental zones, landscape and habitat features (relevant to hedgehogs), soil type and coverage of major and minor roads were also sourced.
  • The relative abundance of badgers across the UK was obtained from the “Living with Mammals” Mammal Trust UK survey from 2003-2006.
  • All factors were used in regression models to ascertain if any influenced the presence of hedgehogs.

Key results

  • 26% of questionnaires, which accounted for 1.8% of agricultural area in the UK were returned and were not geographically biased nor were overrepresented by those who see hedgehogs.
  • Hedgehog presence was highest in the northern and eastern regions of England and lowest in the southern and western regions.
  • Hedgehogs were most often reported in gardens and deciduous woodlands and were least encountered in heathlands and coniferous woodlands.
  • Factors influencing hedgehog presence were variable across the environmental zones:
    • Hedgehog absence in the true Scottish uplands was influenced by arable and horticultural land.
    • Hedgehogs presence in the uplands and islands of Scotland was significantly influenced by hedgerows, urban areas, minor roads and broadleaf woodland, whilst absence of hedgehogs was significantly influenced by arable and horticultural land and major roads
    • Hedgehog presence in Scottish lowlands was positively influenced by conifer and broadleaf woodlands, improved and semi-natural grassland and by arable, horticulture and urban land use types and negatively influenced by major roads and neutral grassland.
    • Hedgehog absence in uplands of England/Wales was significantly influenced by badgers whilst their presence was significantly influenced by major and minor road coverage.
    • In pasture lowlands, hedgehog presence was positively related to arable and horticultural, upland and improved grassland landscapes, arable and dairy, rather than wood farmland and to hedgerows, whilst sandy soils, badger abundance and minor roads, negatively influenced hedgehog presence.
    • In arable lowlands in England/Wales, hedgehog absence related to livestock, arable, dairy and wood farmland types, to minor road coverage, semi-natural grassland landscapes and clay soils, to broadleaved woodlands and where badger abundance was higher. Arable and horticultural farmland types, sandy soils and uplands had a positive effect on hedgehog presence.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Questionnaire surveys are useful for identifying focal areas to conduct ecological hedgehog surveys as these vary nationally between regions
  • Major roads have a consistent negative influence on hedgehog presence and research into the effectiveness of wildlife crossings that may facilitate the movement of hedgehogs across major roads, whilst discouraging their use by badgers, is recommended.
  • Badger abundance negatively influences hedgehogs and research into habitat features that provide refuge for hedgehogs on farmland would be useful.
  • Maintaining and reinstating hedgerows on farmland to ensure connectivity and provide potential refuge habitat for hedgehogs is recommended.

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