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A letter to Richard Black about hedgehogs

Dear Richard

I read your interesting article online this morning - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7422299.stm - and note that apart from cars you say that hedgehogs are becoming rarer because:
“Overall, however, researchers believe changes to the landscape are a more important factor in the species' demise. The ongoing use of once natural countryside for housing and other development, the tidiness of the urban garden, and the reduction in hedges across rural land may all be driving numbers down. “
But there isn’t a reduction in hedges across the country – hedges are protected and many more have been planted since 1998 when the official statistics http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/land/ldcslandsc.htm said :
“1990-1998. There was an overall increase in the length of linear features and no significant loss of hedgerows in that period.”
(I apologise I can’t quickly find more up to date figures online).

And hedgehogs actually thrive in urban areas – as this one example paper www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1365-2656.2001.00471.x says:

“Released hedgehogs tended to disperse into urban areas. A probable explanation is that urban habitat tended to be avoided by badgers and often supported existing hedgehog populations.”

Which brings us onto the real reason for the hedgehog decline – badgers:

“The abundance of hedgehogs varied in direct relation to the density of badger setts as a single variable. Absence of hedgehogs from all but a few isolated pockets in a site was predicted at densities of =2.27 badger setts per 10 km2” - http://www.jstor.org/pss/5262

Yours truly,

The Englishman

- I wonder if I will get a reply....

Comments

It's funny how a simple hunch can come up with the same result; here is a comment I made over at RM's blog (http://remittanceman.blogspot.com/)

Blogger haddock said...

I think the hedgehogs now have the sense to see the huge numbers of flat badgers on the road and put two and two together.

May 27, 2008 8:16 PM

I live on a housing estate in the middle of a large town and see loads of hedgehogs when I'm out walking the dog. More than I ever did when I lived in the sticks!

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