SOURCE: The Independent

DATE: September 6, 2018

SNIP: Hedgehog numbers have plummeted across rural areas, and they face potentially “catastrophic” future conditions, a new study reveals.

Following estimates earlier this year that numbers had collapsed by as much as 97 per cent since the 1950s, the latest data indicates hedgehogs are suffering more in the countryside than in urban areas.

The research, led by a team at Reading University, and published in the journal Nature, reveals between 2014 and 2015 hedgehogs were only present at 55 of 261 sites across England and Wales.

The findings indicate much of the country may already be uninhabited by the animals.

Researchers said intensification in agriculture and a changing climate were likely to be key reasons for the trend which appears to be driving hedgehogs into towns and cities.

“It’s not a good situation at all, and what’s alarming about that is that hedgehogs are insectivores and can adapt their diets to food availability. So if they’re declining then there’s a good probability lots of other species are declining which we can’t monitor quite so easily.”

Modern farming practices and an increasingly volatile climate have already been seen to have an impact on hedgehogs. Soils compacted over years due to heavy farming machinery change the environment for worms – an important food source for badgers – and during hot summers, when the earth is hard and dry, badgers struggle to access worms, instead preying on hedgehogs.