Hedgehog - Erinaceus europaeus. Once a common sight, hedgehog numbers have declined rapidly in recent years. The reasons are not clear but loss of suitable habitat and the use of chemicals on farmland and gardens are obvious reasons.
Although hedgehogs are present throughout much of the Barnsley area, the numbers and distribution are not known yet in any detail.
General information: The hedgehog is the only spiny British mammal. Found in the countryside and urban areas, the nocturnal hedgehogs can be seen (and heard) at dusk and at night as they forage for food.
Hedgehogs can weigh up to 1.5kg and eat mainly beetles, worms, caterpillars, slugs, and other invertebrates, as well as carrion, but little plant material. They sometimes eat the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds although rarely in large numbers.
Preferred habitats include woodland edges, hedgerows, gardens and other places with bushes, and leaves and twigs on the ground, for cover and for nesting materials. Moorlands, conifer forests and intensively farmed arable areas do not provide suitable habitats.
In cold weather, hedgehogs hibernate: they remain dormant within nests in leaves or semi-underground from late October to early April, only emerging when conditions are warmer. If it is warm enough and there is enough food, hedgehogs do not hibernate at all.
Mating occurs after hibernation and four to five young are born in late spring to early autumn. They live for two to three years in the wild. However late born young rarely survive winter months as they do not have time to build up enough fat reserves.
Their nests may be quite large, usually made of leaves, grass, moss, and other garden debris. They can be found at the base of thick hedges, under thick bramble bushes, garden sheds or piles of rubbish.
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.
Over 140 hedgehogs have been released in 2012 at local sites
Release of hedgehogs
It is generally prohibited to remove from the wild protected species like hedgehogs.
However legislation permits hedgehogs in need of help to be rescued and properly reared or nursed back to health before release back into the environment. There are local people with the expertise to do this.
When it is time for release it is important to:
Factors causing loss or decline
Environmental changes are likely to be the cause of the drop in hedgehog numbers - the loss of and fragmentation of habitat.
More intensive agriculture – with larger fields and the loss of hedgerows and permanent grassland – has played a major role.
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. Road deaths might also be a cause of decline in busy areas.
Changes in weather can disrupt hibernation, the availability of food and the chances of young surviving the winter.
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.
Conservation management of habitats can support hedgehogs by maintaining:
Hedgehogs are often found in suburban areas, and gardens, grounds and parks can be made better for supporting hedgehogs:
Supplementary feeding may be useful during periods of periods of drought when natural invertebrate foods may be hard to come by.
Hedgehog sightings. We want to know about your sightings of hedgehogs –dead or hopefully alive.
Find out more about “Our Hogwatch” project below.
Hedgehog,, Erinaceus europaeus, is a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan 2007.
Hedgehog is a Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act (2006).
As such it is a national priority species in Biodiversity 2020.
It is a local priority species for Barnsley because of its national status, its general decline and the potential for improvement.
Hedgehogs are protected under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and may not be killed or trapped without a licence. Updated in the Country-side and Rights of Way Act 2000.
As a Section 41 species under the NERC Act (2006), hedgehog need to be taken into consideration by any public body in managing their estate.
Hedgehog sightings. We want to know about your sightings of hedgehogs – dead or hopefully alive. Where, When, and What it was doing ... Any other information – was it visiting your garden or or workplace or school grounds, did you see it on a hedge side or woodland area? Was it still, hibernating, feeding or on the move? The more information collected about our hedgehogs, the greater the chance of discovering how we can help them and reverse the decline.
Foradvice and information
Our key objectives for supporting hedgehogs are:
Where are hedgehogs seen? Which habitats do they prefer? When do they hibernate? How can we help them survive and grow in numbers?
“Our Hogwatch’ is a local project set up by Penistone Friends of the Earth and Barnsley Biodiversity Trust. It asks everyone who has seen a hedgehog to send in a record of where and when they saw one. Volunteers are being asked to become hogwatchers so that we can find out where they are and indeed where they are not present.
The ‘Our Hogwatch’ project mainly covers the area of Barnsley west of the M1 - the wards of Penistone East, Penistone West, and Dodworth..
Go to the Our Hogwatch website for information and to find out how to join in as a hogwatcher or to tell us about your sightings.
If you have seen a hedgehog to the east of the M1 in Barnsley or in the Darfield area, then you can report your sightings here
An area of your garden left untidy offers hedgehogs a shelter, a place to hibernate and a source of beetles and slugs for food. Leave gaps in the fence or wall so that hedgehogs can get from one garden to another.