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Study sheds light on decline of Britain’s hedgehogs
Researchers found evidence of badgers and hedgehogs co-existing.

Researchers investigate the effects of key habitat types and badger sett density 

A large proportion of rural England and Wales is ‘potentially unsuitable’ for hedgehogs and badgers to live in, according to new research.

The finding, revealed in the first systematic survey of rural hedgehog populations in England and Wales, suggests there is a wider landscape management issue affecting both species, rather than a single-factor being a cause of the hedgehog’s decline.

In the study, researchers investigated the effects of the availability of key habitat types and badger sett density on native hedgehogs. They found that while badger sett density is negatively linked to the presence of hedgehogs, there is evidence of both species co-existing and hedgehogs being positively associated with built habitat, like housing.

More concerning, however, was that badger setts were not recorded at many of the sites surveyed. Lead author Ben Williams, a PhD student from the University of Reading, explains:

"We found that although hedgehogs were generally widely distributed across England and Wales, they were actually found at a worryingly low number (21 per cent) of sites. We also found that hedgehogs were absent from 71 per cent per cent of sites that did not have badger setts either, indicating that both hedgehogs and badgers may be absent from large portions of rural England and Wales.

“We found hedgehogs at 55 sites. We also found that badger setts were present at 49 per cent of these sites, demonstrating that badgers and hedgehogs can, and do, coexist, as was the case historically for thousands of years prior to the recent decline in hedgehog numbers. However, perhaps, more importantly, our results indicate that a large proportion of rural England and Wales is potentially unsuitable for both hedgehogs and badgers to live in.

“Given the similarity in diets of the two species, one explanation for this could be the reduced availability of macro-invertebrate prey (such as earthworms) which both species need to feed on to survive. This could be as a result of agricultural intensification and climate change.”

The research was led by Nottingham Trent University and the University of Reading and funded by the People's Trust for Endangered Species and the Hedgehog Preservation Society. It surveys 261 rural sites covering all habitat types in England and Wales between 2014 and 2015 using footprint tracking tunnels.

'Reduced occupancy of hedgehogs in rural England and Wales: the influence of habitat and an asymmetric intra-guild predator’ is published in Scientific Reports

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.