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Reeve et al (1985) hedgehog summer nest construction use

Title: Construction and use of summer nests by the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), Mammalia 49(2); 187-194.  1985

Authors: N.J. Reeve & P.A. Morris

Country: UK

Background to study

An investigation into the location and use of summer nests by hedgehogs within a golf course habitat in suburban London.  

Method

  • Summer nest sites of radio-collared hedgehogs were located within a 40 ha golf course consisting of mown grass and small patches and strips of woodland and shrubbery within the suburbs of west London between June and October and April and October 1978 and 1979 respectively.
  • The site and construction of each nest was investigated during year one and for each individual and data on the number of different nests, the frequency of use of each nest and whether individuals shared nests was recorded for periods up to 118 consecutive days.

Key results

  • Close inspection of 58 daytime nests revealed that the majority (53.5%) were sited within thorny or stinging vegetation, in particular under bramble, holly, hawthorn or nettles.
  • An assessment of the materials and construction of 41 nests showed that 83% of nests were constructed from naturally fallen leaves, sometimes with twigs, 10% of nests were made of grass and leaves and 7% were constructed using grass alone (only females).
  • Four nests were within burrows with tunnels >1m long with a single entrance which may have been dug by the hedgehogs or be former rabbit burrows.
  • In contrast to winter hibernacula, there was evidence that summer nests are sometimes abandoned then re-used at a later date by the same individual.
  • Hedgehogs frequently had multiple summer nests and located them within similar areas across years.
  • The frequency at which hedgehogs moved nests was significantly higher for males (every 3 days on average), than for females (every 9.6 days on average) resulting in males spending less time than females in one particular nest.
  • 4% of males and 52.4% of females remained in one nest for a single day.
  • Simultaneous nest sharing was observed infrequently (7 instances over 2 years) and only when the other occupant is absent and males would use the nests of females but not vice versa.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Maintaining and/or creating hedgerows and scrub areas which include thorny species such as bramble or hawthorn, particularly within and surrounding amenity grassland sites and in gardens is recommended to support the nesting requirements of urban hedgehogs.
  • Gardeners are advised to leave fallen leaves within their garden rather than disposing of them off sites as these provide suitable nesting material for hedgehogs during the summer.
  • In the event of locating a summer nest, it is advised to leave it in situ as this may be re-used at a later date and by different individuals.
  • Mitigation habitat should be provided within similar areas for hedgehogs whose nesting sites are likely to be destroyed or become temporarily unsuitable forgoing any development/management works.

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