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A recent survey has revealed an increase in sightings of hedgehogs in the UK, following a previous decline over the years.
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A recent survey has revealed an increase in sightings of hedgehogs in the UK, following a previous decline over the years.

After a period of decline in British gardens due to loss of habitat and fragmentation, hedgehogs have received unexpected positive updates. It appears that their population may be increasing once more.

BBC Gardeners’ World magazine readers were requested to document the wildlife present in their gardens. They shared that there was a 2% increase in hedgehog sightings, which is a positive change compared to the previous year’s survey that showed a decline.

Studies have shown a decrease in the population of mammals by 30%–75% in various rural regions since 2000. This decline is attributed to the loss and fragmentation of habitats, as hedgehogs are known to roam and barriers such as walls and fences can hinder their movements. It has also been proposed that the use of pesticides may be harming the insects that hedgehogs rely on for food. Furthermore, it is believed that hedgehogs may be unintentionally poisoned by consuming toxic pellets that were initially ingested by slugs and snails.

In the yearly poll, participants were asked if they had spotted a hedgehog in their garden during 2023. In the previous year, 33% of individuals reported seeing a hedgehog in their garden, which was an increase from 31% in 2022. Of those who saw hedgehogs in their gardens this year, 21% noticed a change in sightings compared to the previous year – either seeing them for the first time or more frequently than in 2022.

In urban locations, there have been recent efforts to maintain patches of gardens with a natural, unkempt appearance by including elements such as logs, tall grass, and plants. This allows hedgehogs to build nests and search for insects. Additionally, individuals have constructed “hedgehog highways” by creating openings in fences to facilitate the movement of these animals.

In 2023, the majority of Gardeners’ World survey participants (77%) reported taking actions to enhance their gardens for the benefit of wildlife. These actions included refraining from using slug pellets, inspecting for hedgehogs and other animals before mowing, and maintaining more natural and less organized gardens.

In 2022, 18% of people in urban areas reported seeing hedgehogs in the previous year, which was a 2.7% increase from the previous year. In rural areas, 43% of respondents reported seeing hedgehogs in the past year, which was a 1% increase from the previous year.

Fay Vass, CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, stated, “While the Gardeners’ World survey provides valuable information, it’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are only a momentary glimpse. Populations fluctuate from year to year, thus these results may not accurately reflect the overall trend.”

However, she stated that information from the 2022 report on Britain’s hedgehogs, released by BHPS in collaboration with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, indicated that urban populations are relatively stable and may even show signs of improvement in certain regions.

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Vass stated that the “State of” report provides a thorough summary of the hedgehog population in the UK. While the findings bring some hope, it is concerning that urban populations are still significantly lower than they should be. It is crucial to collect more data to track the changes in both urban and rural hedgehog populations over time. Additionally, taking action as a community, such as creating hedgehog-friendly gardens, is essential. To support this cause, one can become a Hedgehog Champion and make efforts to make their garden as welcoming for hedgehogs as possible.

According to Kevin Smith, the editor of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine, it is great to see more hedgehogs being spotted. The magazine’s efforts to promote wildlife-friendly gardening, including creating gaps in fences and offering shelter for nesting and hibernation, are contributing to making gardens a safe haven for hedgehogs.

Source: theguardian.com