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Reeve (1982) hedgehog home range radio tracking

Title: The home range of the hedgehog as revealed by a radio tracking study, Symposium for the Zoological Society of London 49; 207-230, 1982.

Authors:  N.J. Reeve

Country: UK

Background to study

A study into the ranging behaviour of hedgehogs, using radio-telemetry and capture-mark-recapture methods, in suburban habitat in West London. 

Method

  • The study was carried out over three years, on a 40ha area of golf course, consisting of copses, woods, areas of undergrowth, rough and mown grassland and scattered trees. The area was surrounded by roads, residential housing and a major dual carriageway to the south.
  • Hedgehogs were captured after being located using spotlight surveys (using a red filter). Each unique individual encoutered was uniquely marked using spine clipping (2.5 x 2.5 cm area) and it’s age (sub-adult or adult) and sex were determined.
  • Hedgehogs were fitted with a unique radio-transmitter which was glued using epoxy resin to the spines between the animals shoulders. Harness fitting was unsuccessful.  This method lasted for several weeks and were re-glued to spines when loose and rarely caused slight inflamation of skin.
  • Movement during the night was determined using radio-telemetry and recaptures and daytime nests were found using radio-telemetry. Range size (minimum area method), distance travelled, time elapsed between fixes and speed between fixes were calculated for each animal on each night and pooled across one active season to give a yearly range for males, females and sub-adults.
  • Data from one year of study consisted of 83 animal nights with an average of three individuals tracked each night.

Key results

  • Hedgehog abundance was calculated to be 1 individual per ha.
  • Males range sizes were significantly larger than females (mean range sizes of 32 and 10ha respectively) and subadults had similar range sizes to females (12ha). Ranges overlapped, were in approximately the same area across the three years of study and were not evenly used during the year.
  • No territoriality was observed but individuals showed some degree of mutual avoidance.
  • Males travelled significantly further distances in one night (mean = 1690 m) than females (mean 1006 m) and subadults were indistinguishable from females travelling a mean distance of 1188 m.
  • No evidence that emergence time from day nests differed between sexes.
  • Males travelled significantly faster than females (average speeds = 3.73 and 2.19 m/min respectively) and subadults travelled a similar speed to females (2.17 m/min). Several males travelled at speeds in excess of 30 m/min for between 3 and 10 minutes.
  • No evidence to suggest that males expand their ranges when sexually active although the data is sparse.
  • Range sizes increased with the number of fixes per night and the a minimum of two fixes per hour is recommended for tracking hedgehogs.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Radio tracking studies should aim to use transmitters glued to the spines of individuals and at least two fixes per hour and > 20 fixes per individual will provide adequate data on home range use.
  • Hedgehog surveys, particularly as part of mitigation works, should be replicated throughout their activity season as their use of habitat may not be consistent throughout the year resulting in a false absence.

 

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