At least half the population of our native hedgehogs has been lost from the countryside in the last two decades, warn wildlife charities in a shock report today.
The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018, published jointly by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), shows that these popular creatures are in severe decline in rural areas, with numbers plummeting by half since the turn of the millennium.
"There are many reasons hedgehogs are in trouble," said Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street, a public action campaign run by PTES and BHPS.
"The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas."
However, with approximately 70 per cent of land in the UK managed by farmers, BHPS and PTES are planning to engage with the farming community to help protect this iconic creature.
Ms Wilson added: "Farmers play a vital role in producing food, but they’re also well placed to help protect, maintain and enhance our countryside. The Government recently reiterated plans to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy to reward landowners for delivering environmental benefits.
"Many farmers already have a sustainable approach to agriculture, and we think there’s a great opportunity to work more widely with them to stem the alarming decline of our country hedgehogs."
While the report highlights a worrying rural decline, it shows a more positive outlook for hedgehogs in towns and cities: although the species has declined by a third in urban areas since 2000, the rate of decline is slowing.
Hedgehogs are not disappearing from urban green spaces as rapidly as they were 15 years ago, and might even be returning. Where they are found, numbers too, appear to be growing in some places.
PTES and BHPS launched Hedgehog Street in 2011 to inspire the British public to help hedgehogs and other wildlife that depend on their gardens and, so far, over 47,000 Hedgehog Champions have signed up to help.