Where have the hedgehogs gone?
Published 11 October 2012
Beatrix Potter made hedgehogs a family favourite with her 1905 book The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle but numbers of the spiny mammals are in decline.
According to the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society hedgehog numbers in the 1950's were estimated around 30 million but the latest survey puts today's population at just over one million.
Now, the University of Brighton and the RSPCA have joined forces to find out how and where they live in winter and the over winter survival rates.
They are radio tagging 32 hedgehogs in the Brighton so their movements can be tracked by university students studying ecology, environmental sciences and biological sciences.
Dr Dawn Scott, the university's head of biology and biomedical sciences, said it is not known yet exactly the causes of the decline but it is suggested changes in land use in agricultural and urban areas, use of pesticides to reduce prey and road kills all are responsible for reducing numbers.
She said: "The research hopefully will tell us more about their movements, how they survive the winter and how much weight they lose, information that will help us with conservation efforts in the future."
Adam Grogan, an RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: "We need to know more about their survival in winter. We need to take action to stop the hedgehog from becoming an endangered species."
The RSPCA, Nottingham Trent and Reading universities are helping release tagged hedgehogs in other parts of the country as part of the project.
Mr Grogan appealed to members of the public spotting the hedgehogs with transmitters on their backs not to disturb them, and he also asked homeowners to leave parts of their gardens wild to provide hedgehog habitats. "And I would appeal to anyone preparing a bonfire to first turn the garden waste over to ensure no hedgehogs are inside."
Dr Dawn Scott with Richard Thompson, the RSPCA's Wildlife Rehabilitation Team Manager, preparing a hedgehog for release.
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Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022