The number of hedgehogs in Britain has fallen and wildlife charities want the public to help them find out if climate change has affected the ways hedgehogs survive. Charlotte Reid has more.
British wildlife charities are encouraging people to take part in a hedgehog survey to see if their survival and hibernation habits are affected by climate change.
The survey, which is done online, begins from when hedgehogs start to emerge after hibernation, from February 1st, until August 31st.
Hedgehog populations have dropped by a quarter in the last decade, according to a report called The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs, which was published in 2011.
Dr Pat Morris, a retired hedgehog expert, conducted a survey into hedgehog population numbers across the UK in the 1970s. Once the results from this year’s survey have been analysed they will be compared to the records from the 1970s.
Since the 1970s the world’s surface has warmed, and this has had an effect in the UK as well. There are already organisations doing work to see if this has had an effect on plants and wildlife. But there is no study that focuses on the behaviour of a single mammal species.
Dr Morris told the BBC that higher temperatures could cause problems for hedgehogs when they are hibernating.
Dr Morris explained, “A very long period with low temperatures mean fat reserves get used up more quickly in keeping the animals warm; but they also get used up more quickly if temperatures rise to 8-10C during this period, simply because chemical reactions […] proceed faster at higher temperatures”.
The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report says there is no one reason why there has been a fall in the number of hedgehogs. But problems have arisen for the mammal in urban areas. Tidier gardens and fences as well as the creation of new buildings and roads have reduced suitable habitats for hedgehogs.
One of the recommendations from the report was to make gardens more hedgehog friendly by planting hedges and areas of shelter for them in gardens. There are also benefits for people too by bringing the countryside into towns and cities.
The charity Trees for Cities is helping out as they want people to help them plant 20,000 trees in cities across the UK and Ireland in 2012. Jon Snow, Channel 4 News journalist and broadcaster, said, “It is all too easy to take trees for granted in our urban environment but they are the lungs of cities and perform a new role in mitigating climate change, reducing climate change, increasing health and wellbeing”.
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