Why are hedgehogs in decline?

There is not one reason for the decline in hedgehog numbers, it is likely to be a combination of several factors which together make life more difficult for them.

We hope that Hogwatch will shed a bit more light on the reasons for the decline in hedgehogs in our area, and that we will be able to work with residents, the council and landowners to improve habitats for hedgehogs. Reporting your sightings will help with this.

Factors causing loss or decline

Environmental changes are likely to be the cause of the drop in hedgehog numbers – the loss of habitat and fragmentation of habitat.

More intensive agriculture – with larger fields and the loss of hedgerows and permanent grassland – has played a major role.

There are far fewer hedges, woodlands and wild areas than there used to be.

The use of pesticides reduces the amount of prey available. Slug pellets and weedkillers can harm hedgehogs directly.

Gardens, parks and school grounds have become too tidy and smaller, paved over for parking, or enclosed with impenetrable fences and walls.

New buildings and roads carve up suitable habitat, so that small populations can become isolated and more vulnerable to local extinction. Hedgehog road deaths might also be a cause of decline locally.

Badgers are a natural predator of hedgehogs and hedgehogs actively avoid sites where there are badgers in high numbers. When there is sufficient cover and good foraging opportunities, badgers and hedgehogs can coexist, but when there is no safe refuge and the prey that the two species compete for is scarce, hedgehogs may lose out.

Also, the climate is changing and the weather is less predictable. This can disrupt natural hibernation times, the availability of food and the chance of youngsters surviving the winter.

The decline in numbers

In the early part of the last century, hedgehogs were abundant throughout Britain, with an estimated population of perhaps 30 million in the 1950s. By 1995, the population was estimated to be only about 1.1 million in England.

Hedgehog numbers have also been falling since the 1990s, with consistent declines in yearly numbers recorded since 2001.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs, 2011, confirmed hedgehog numbers declining from records between 2001 and 2009.

Mammals on Roads counts in 2010 and 2011 were the lowest for any year since the first survey in 2001.

At least a quarter of the population has been lost in the last ten years.