- Rural populations continue to plummet, with the largest declines in eastern England
- Urban populations are stable, and may even be recovering thanks to community action
- Urgent action is now needed to try and bring hedgehogs back to the countryside
Today, [Tuesday 22nd February 2022], a new report published by wildlife charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) has revealed that Britain’s hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) populations have continued to decline in rural areas by between 30% and 75% nationally since 2000. The largest declines are seen in the eastern half of England.
In stark contrast, the charities’ State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report also shows that urban hedgehog populations appear to have stablised and might even be starting to recover, after previously falling.
Data collected for this report between 1981 and 2020 from five ongoing surveys* showed that hedgehogs have undergone a long historic decline, but now the vast differences between urban and rural populations are becoming increasingly apparent.
Fay Vass, CEO of The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) explains: “Hedgehogs as we know them today have lived here for at least half a million years, but they’re now facing myriad pressures which are causing populations to plummet, particularly in the rural landscape. The reasons for their decline are complex and aren’t yet fully understood, but two of the main pressures hedgehogs face in both rural and urban areas is lack of suitable habitat and habitat fragmentation.”
“Greater awareness, and individual and community actions, such as making gardens more hedgehog friendly, may be starting to help urban hedgehogs. However, urgent action is needed to understand why rural areas are no longer suitable for hedgehogs, and how conservationists, farmers and land managers can work together to prevent hedgehogs from becoming extinct in the countryside.”
Hedgehogs in the rural landscape
The data showed that between 30% and 75% of rural hedgehogs have been lost nationally since 2000. Numbers have plummeted across the countryside, but the declines vary in different regions, with the most apparent in the East Midlands and the East of England regions. However, more research is desperately needed to confirm this and to get a more precise measure of how hedgehogs are faring across the country.
David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator at PTES, says: “Loss of landscape features such as hedgerows is partly responsible for the decline, but not fully, as recent efforts have been made to restore and improve them. We know from research, funded by PTES, BHPS and others over the last decade, that hedgehogs prefer villages to open farmland, and follow field margins and hedgerows. Understanding how hedgehogs use and move through the landscape is a big step forward, but more work is needed.”
“We now need to look at the wider management of farmland and field margins, how the invertebrate species that hedgehogs eat are faring, the impact of climate change, and how connected the wider landscape is. Once we know the full facts, we can start to help rural hedgehogs to recover.”
Farmers and land managers are best placed to help, and many have already made positive changes to benefit hedgehogs and other wildlife. But, to stem the rural decline more change is still needed, which is why PTES and BHPS plan to help farmers with new Environmental Land Management (ELM) government schemes to benefit hedgehogs, promote the importance of healthy hedgerows through PTES’ Great British Hedgerow Survey, engage with government consultations about sustainable farming and landscape recovery, and plan to set up a national monitoring programme. The charities’ Farmers Advice booklet is also available for free: www.hedgehogstreet.org/farmersadvice
Hedgehogs in the urban landscape
The picture in our cities, towns and villages is more positive, with the data showing no indication of the decline continuing. Despite road mortality being highest around urban areas, gardens (with the right features) and other green spaces are thought to be a refuge for hedgehogs from pressures in the wider landscape – but only if they’re connected.
Grace Johnson, Hedgehog Officer, Hedgehog Street (a joint campaign by BHPS and PTES) says: “Hedgehogs can travel around one mile every night through gardens and parks in search of food and mates. It’s clear from our report that gardens can be havens for hedgehogs, but only if they are connected via gaps in or under garden boundaries to let hedgehogs in and out. A ‘Hedgehog Highway’ (a 13cm or CD case sized square gap) will enable hedgehogs to roam between neighbouring gardens and green spaces, which is vital to their survival.”
“We’re really encouraged that urban populations appear to have stablised, but we can’t be complacent as numbers are still low. We hope everyone who has been helping hedgehogs in our towns and villages, including our amazing 100,000+ volunteer Hedgehog Champions, will continue their brilliant efforts over the coming years, and hopefully one day hedgehog sightings will be commonplace again.”
To help hedgehogs where you live, become a Hedgehog Champion, make a Hedgehog Highway in your garden fence or wall, make your garden as hedgehog friendly as possible and record sightings via Hedgehog Street’s BIG Hedgehog Map. For more top tips, visit: www.hedgehogstreet.org
To read the full State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report, visit: www.hedgehogstreet.org/state-of-britains-hedgehogs-2022
*PTES’ Living with Mammals and Mammals on Roads surveys, BTO’s Garden BirdWatch, BTO, JNCC & RSPB’s Breeding Bird Survey and the Game and Conservation Trust’s National Gamebag Census.
– ENDS –
For a Dropbox link of high-res images and footage, or to arrange interviews, contact Adela Cragg:
T: 07532 685 614
Notes to Editors
Available for interview
- David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
- Fay Vass, CEO, British Hedgehog Preservation Society
- Grace Johnson, Hedgehog Officer, Hedgehog Street (a joint campaign between BHPS & PTES)
- Hugh Warwick, Ecologist and Author, British Hedgehog Preservation Society
- Nida Al-Fulaij, Conservation Research Manager, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
- Hedgehogs are in trouble. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 (SOBH) is the only comprehensive review of the status of Britain’s hedgehogs and was jointly published by BHPS & PTES. The SOBH report revealed that rural hedgehog populations have continued to plummet, declining by between 30% – 75% across different areas of the countryside since 2000. The largest declines are seen in Eastern England.
- In stark contrast, the SOBH report also showed that urban hedgehog populations are stabilising and may even be recovering thanks to greater awareness, and individual and community actions.
- The reasons for the decline are complex and are not yet fully understood. Two of the main pressures hedgehogs face in both rural and urban landscapes is habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. Urgent action is now needed to try and boost rural hedgehog numbers before it’s too late, whilst continuing the positive work taking place across our towns and cities.
- But, there are lots of ways to help hedgehogs! Make a Hedgehog Highway in your fence to connect your garden with your neighbours; leave patches of nesting materials such as leaves and twigs, or provide a hedgehog house; put out supplementary food and water; record all sightings (alive and dead) on the BIG Hedgehog Map; and become a Hedgehog Champion.
- More research is being funded by BHPS & PTES. A range of academic research projects are currently being carried out, aiming to further scientific understanding about the causes for the decline and most importantly what can be done to reverse this threat to this iconic species.
- In 2015, PTES and BHPS launched a 10-year species conservation strategy at the first UK summit on hedgehogs in a decade.
- Hedgehogs are ‘Britain’s Favourite Mammal’, according to the 2016 Royal Society of Biology poll.
About Hedgehog Street
- Hedgehog Street is a joint campaign by wildlife charities: the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). It’s an ongoing project which was launched in June 2011 and encourages people to make small changes in their own gardens, which will make a big difference for hedgehogs. To date, over 100,000 volunteer “Hedgehog Champions” up and down the country have registered to help, but we always need more volunteers!
- Hedgehog Street is working with The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell who is the Species Champion for the UK’s native hedgehog.
- The free Hedgehog Street app was launched in January 2020 and is available from the Apple Store or Google Play.
- Hedgehog Street is also liaising with farmers or rural landowners, housing developers and greenspace land managers, to help better manage their land to support wild hedgehog populations.
- The charities’ Hedgehog Street gardenwon Gold at the 2014 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and People’s Choice Award in the summer garden category.
- Visit www.hedgehogstreet.org for more information.
- BHPS is a UK charity founded in 1982 dedicated to helping & protecting hedgehogs native to the UK. They run a helpline offering advice on caring for & encouraging hedgehogs in the wild and in gardens. They aim to educate the public on how best to help hedgehogs and fund research into the behavioural habits of hedgehogs to ascertain the best methods of assisting their survival.
- Visit www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/ and follow BHPS on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
- PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
- PTES has Species Champions for three of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell, for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and for dormice The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk.
- Visit www.ptes.org and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.