In the 1950’s Britain had 36 million hedgehogs. Now there are less than a million. The hedgehog is one of Britain’s favourite animals however they are disappearing as fast as the world’s tigers. This disturbing figure was discovered by the (PTES) Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. New data shows that hedgehog numbers fell dramatically by 37% between 2003 and 2012. Scientists are trying to figure out why this shocking statistic has only come to light now. In the 1990s there were still some two million in Britain.
Scientists who are working in partnership with hedgehog charities such as Hedgehog Street have asked people to record hedgehog deaths in a project called ‘Mammals on the Road’. Although this may seem shocking, in reality this is a good thing as the more dead hedgehogs found on the roads, show a larger population of hedgehogs. There is even an iPhone app to record their deaths, a somewhat controversial idea as recording an animal’s death could seem rather morbid.
The real problems for hedgehogs are the fact that they have a rapidly disappearing habitat and a decline in their food source. With the development of agriculture, as wild countryside is converted to farmland, can reduce food supplies by up to 90%. A further problem for hedgehogs is the growth in number of badgers, as the larger mammals have strong claws that are longer than a hedgehogs spines, so they can force them open and kill them.
Sadly one of the few food sources that are still available to hedgehogs, wild birds eggs, turn charities such as the RSPB against them, because they eat so many.
A four year long cull on hedgehogs on Uist in the Outer Hebrides was overturned after falling numbers. Hedgehogs were given lethal injections to cut down their numbers because of the threat they posed to rare wading birds and their eggs. Perhaps this change in people’s views about the spiky mammal, will prevent further culls in the future. Let’s hope that all is not lost for this wonderful animal. There are many charities and organizations out there to help them.
Article written by Eleanor