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Morris (1986) hedgehog forest edge nightly movements

Title: Nightly movements of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in forest edge habitat, Mammalia 50(3); 395-398. 1986

Authors: P.A. Morris

Country: England

Background to study

A short investigation into the movement patterns of hedgehogs in forest edge habitat to increase understanding of habitat requirements for hedgehogs in wooded areas.

Method

  • Hedgehog movement was monitored within an area consisting of primarily deciduous forest with few small patches of cultivated land and a few buildings.
  • Three adult hedgehogs (two females and one male) were captured at night and fitted with a small radio transmitter and luminous tag to help facilitate location of animals in the dark.
  • Each animal was located, where possible, every hour, each night for a period of three weeks in July/August 1983 and their day time nests were located when possible.
  • A total of 33 hedgehog/night observations were analysed to identify a) the minimum distance travelled during the night (calculated as total straight line distance between location fixes), b) the area utilised each night (minimum convex polygons) and c) the accumulated area used over the study period as a measure of the minimum total area familiar to the animal during the study period.

Key results

  • Female hedgehogs travelled an average of 625 metres per night which was shorter than the distance recorded for the male which travelled, on average, 868 metres and up to 1138 metres per night.
  • One female gave birth (11th August) to five young during the study however had been out foraging every night for the preceding five nights and did not appear to have returned to feed her litter during the nights of observation.
  • Female’s nightly range varied from 0.435 and 5.715 ha and the male varied from 0.52 to 3.875 ha.
  • After 12 nights the females varied in the area traversed with one female range totalling 6.9 ha and the other 11 ha, whilst the males range was smaller totalling 6.4 ha.
  • One female used three different day time resting places and changed her day time nest four times during the study period whilst the other female used three different nests and changed only twice. The male made six changes among four different nests during this study.
  • Hedgehog ranges were smaller than those reported in another study conducted within golf course habitat and they showed a preference for forest edge, cultivated land and areas around buildings.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Management of forest edges to encourage dense understorey and establishing grassy margins along the adjoining habitat is recommended to provide both nesting and foraging areas for hedgehogs whilst reducing their risk of predation by badgers.
  • Surveys aimed at establishing factors influencing the ranging behaviour of hedgehogs should include a large enough sample of individuals to compensate for the variability in ranges that are exhibited between different animals.

 

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