AUG 19, 2011: Hedgehogs could disappear from Britain within 15 years, a new study has found.
Once commonplace across the country, they are among 10 indigenous species to have suffered the most dramatic decline over the past century. It is estimated that there are now around one million hedgehogs in Britain, representing a decline of 25 per cent over the past decade. In some parts of the country, the fall could be as high as 50 per cent. Such is the rate of decline that the long term survival of the hedgehog in Britain is now in doubt. It joins, among others, the black-tailed godwit, cuckoo, red squirrel and natterjack toad on a list compiled by researchers on behalf Eden, a digital natural history channel. The study was led by Toni Bunnell, a retired zoology lecturer, whose team compiled the league table of species under threat based on how fast their population was dwindling. Dr Bunnell, who runs a hedgehog sanctuary near York, cited a number of reasons for the decline in the population. “Pesticides have eliminated much of their food such as caterpillars and beetles. Then there has been a reduction of habitat in the countryside which they are having to share with predatory badgers,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “They have moved into residential areas where the problems they face are rat poison, strimming and mowing. They are also being rapped in netting where they suffer horrific injuries and have to be put to sleep. “They used to be able to go from one garden to another for food, but because of fencing they can’t do that any more.” In addition about 50,000 hedgehogs a year are run over by motorists, while others are drowning in garden ponds. Much could be done to save the hedgehog, including providing food and water, using wildlife-friendly slug pellets and removing trailing netting. Dr Bunnell voiced alarm that many animals which were now disappearing. “I cannot remember the last time I heard a cuckoo, for instance, which used to be one of the iconic sounds of the British countryside. “We have managed to link population numbers with rates of decline to estimate species most under threat for the first time. “There are a number of issues of course, including some in other countries when it comes to migratory birds, but if there was one above all others that needs to be addressed I would say it is habitat loss.” The decline in other creatures has been similarly stark. For example there has been a 90 per cent fall in the number of turtle doves, a migratory bird, in Britain since 1971, while the black-tailed godwit population has fallen by 33 per cent in just the last 15 years. Such is Whitehall’s concern about the fall in the toad population, that the Department for Transport has decreed that they are a “biodiversity priority species” and has allowed councils to extend the time migratory toad crossing road signs can be put up by one month. According to the Eden study the top 10 list of endangered species in the UK is: 1 Red-necked phalarope 2 Black-tailed godwit 3 Scottish wildcat 4 Capercaillie 5 Cuckoo 6 Red squirrel 7 Turtle dove 8 Natterjack toad 9 Brown hare 10 Hedgehog