by Patrick Wright
Hedgehogs, along with farmland birds, are often used as an example of the overall decline of biodiversity in the UK. Populations were estimated to be around 1.5 million in 1995 and have since then declined to 500,000 in 2018 according the latest population review by the Mammal Society.
Their decline, however, is not solely tied to the loss of habitat and food from the intensification of agriculture and is likely to be linked with a combination of factors. The increase in badger populations resulting in increased competition and predation, for example, may also contribute towards their fall in numbers. More importantly, road collisions have been raised as an important factor contributing to the decline as approximately 200,000 hedgehogs are thought to be killed on roads each year.
There is obviously a lot of interest in reducing the number of hedgehogs squashed on roads! To do this, we need to better understand what factors contribute to hedgehog roadkill. In other words, we need to know where, when and why hedgehogs are getting killed on roads. To answer these questions the Mammal Society, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have teamed up and gathered a large body of roadkill data to answer these questions.
By analysing the relationship between both roadkill data and different landscape variables, we found that hedgehog casualties occurred mainly in areas where both urban habitat and grassland dominated the landscape. In other words, dead hedgehogs are more likely throughout small villages or in the suburbs of larger cities and tend to be safer on small countryside roads.
By identifying roadkill ‘hotspots’ at a very fine resolution, we are hoping to reduce the number of hedgehogs killed on roads by implementing appropriate mitigation measures where needed. Watch this space for the published work!
The easiest way to help us with this current research is to use our Mammal Mapper app! You can record one-off sightings of hedgehogs in your garden, but more importantly for this research, you can record your car journeys and any roadkill that you might unfortunately see along the way. Knowing where people are driving and encountering roadkill of different species helps us to determine which species are most at risk in certain areas, and at what times of year.
Watch the short clip below showing how to start a survey on the app.
Go to our National Mammal Week page to find out what’s happening each day this Mammal Week! Make sure you are following #MammalWeek and #MammalsMatter and keeping an eye on our social media feeds for all things Mammal Week related. You wouldn’t want to miss out on our prizes would you?!