Are hedgehogs at risk of becoming endangered because of changes in the weather?
In a bid to get more information about one of Britain’s declining mammals, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) have opened their annual Hedgehog Hibernation Survey once again.
What does the survey aim to find out?
The PTES and BHPS are encouraging as many people as possible to record their sightings of hedgehogs as they emerge after hibernation.
The number of hedgehogs in Britain has plummeted by over a third in the last decade. The reasons behind this drop are complicated, but it’s thought that the adverse weather conditions experienced in recent years may be part of the problem.
What do the organizations want to do with the information?
It’s hoped that by studying changes in the timings of natural events scientists can work out how they impact on the waking times of hedgehogs. Milder winters are suspected to be rousing hedgehogs early from hibernation, so the PTES and BHPS want to find out if this is the case.
Early waking means some hedgehogs are unable to preserve enough energy to keep them going through the rest of the winter when food is scarce. Campaigners have warned that if climate change continues it could have a devastating impact on hedgehogs.
From data comparison the organisations will be able to gain a better understanding of a hedgehog’s life cycle and decide which conservation efforts are likely to be most successful.
The project already has data from 2012 and 2013 but needs to build up a number of years worth of information in order to get the most accurate idea of the link between weather changes and hibernation patterns.
How can you get involved?
The 2014 survey will run from 1st February until 31st August and simply requires participants to sign up online and keep a record of when they see a hedgehog, where they see it, and whether it’s dead or alive.
The study is part of a larger campaign launched by the PTES and BHPS called Hedgehog Street. This aims to encourage volunteers to create a good living environment for hedgehogs in their area. The project is based on the principle that Hedgehogs need a whole street of gardens in order to survive.
The Hedgehog Street website contains information on how you can become a Hedgehog Champion, and has a link to the online study so you can take part.
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