Habitat is everything. The loss of habitats and safe nesting sites has left hedgehogs extremely exposed. They have traditionally spent their times close to hedgerows seeking prey and where they would be able to find safe nesting sites in the dense hedges.
More often now hedgerows have been replaced by solid fences that provide no safe havens for hedgehogs or other species. The solid fences prevent their roam range and restrict their food search area.
Hedgehogs rarely encounter badgers in urban areas, but they are declining just as severely there as they are in the wider countryside. Moreover, the rate of this decline is not related to the presence of badgers at urban sites. In rural areas, Hedgehogs are declining severely even in parts of the country with low badger densities (e.g. East Anglia).
HABITAT, HABITAT & HABITAT
The modern, intensive farming practices used today impact greatly on Hedgehogs. Intensive farming has seen field sizes grow to accommodate heavy machinery. Hedges have been removed to increase field sizes, field margins have been reduced, and pesticides are often used to produce stronger crops, all this impacts on hedgehog in many ways.
- The removal of hedges has put Hedgehog at far greater risk of predation and caused a decline in safe nesting sites.
- The reduced margins and hedgerows have cut down their food search area and hedgehogs now have to compete for her prey with other mammals on exposed sites.
- Safe nesting sites have been dramatically reduce by removal of hedges.
- Insects that Hedgehogs feed on are no longer attracted to many of our modern crops.
- The pesticides that kill insects can impact on Hedgehog and other wildlife. Moreover, in 2015 a farmland bird survey showed that 52% of farmland birds have now gone forever, the indicators are there we must take action.
Whilst it is likely that where badger numbers are high the number of Hedgehogs will be low, there is no evidence that badgers are the single most important factor affecting Hedgehogs today.
Hedgehog populations increases would be better achieved by increasing and improving habitat, for example: restoring “dense” hedgerows to improve shelter and nesting opportunities and encourage a diverse range of invertebrate prey.
Loss of habitat providing food and safe nesting sites and loss of the ability to roam are the main factors, these factors are all in our gift to rectify.