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Hedgehog Surveys

Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) have national and European protection under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981 (as amended), the Wild Mammal Protection Act 1996, and Appendix III of the Bern Convention.
Hedgehogs are recognised as a species of Principle Importance for the Conservation of Biodiversity under Section 41 (England) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 along with the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 and are listed on local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP).

View our A year in the life of a hedgehog to find out more about hedgehog surveys.

Hedgehogs and the Law:

Under this legislation it is an offense to:

  • Wilfully kill, injure or take a hedgehog (or attempt to do so).

  • It is illegal to capture or trap a hedgehog.

  • Cruelly ill-treat a hedgehog.

  • Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a hedgehogs nest, or obstruct access to it.

  • Disturb a Hedgehog when it is occupying a nest.

  • Hedgehogs cannot be trapped without a licence from Natural England.

Hedgehog Facts:

  • Hedgehogs do not like been out in open spaces and will follow linear features such as hedgerows, walls, fences and buildings, they have poor eyesight but can recognise landmarks such as hedgerows, buildings and trees and the removal of these structures contributes to fragmentation of habitat and isolation of hedgehog populations.

  • Hedgehogs are predominately solitary, except during the breeding season and being nocturnal obtaining exact population counts are difficult.

  • Hedgehogs are locally widespread and can be found in rural and suburban habitats. Local population counts can vary from region to region; with large quantities of hedgehogs in suburban areas and a decline in numbers in many rural habitats (Emily Wilson and David Wernbridge).

  • Hedgehogs are active during April to October in the UK, they can be seen outside this period but this maybe due to having their nest disturbed, a predator being present in the area or being ill. Hedgehogs are active before dusk and after dawn later on in the year as they have to build up their fat reserves before winter.

  • Hedgehogs have a large range and travel 2 to 4km per night in suitable habitat looking for worms, slugs and caterpillars and will visit several gardens in one night looking for food. They will consume wind fall fruit, live and dead mammals along with bird eggs and fledglings. They even consume toxic millipedes and beetles that other animals/birds will not eat. They are partial to sugar substances and can be found licking the sugar contents out of human rubbish. The ideal feeding ground for a hedgehog is damp grazed grassland due to the quantity of ground invertebrates in the soil.

  • Hedgehogs need 20 to 30 hectares approximately (60 acres) of continuous well connected habitat that links them to cemeteries, parks, gardens, wasteland, hedgerows or roadside verges, with male hedgehogs travelling 1 to 2 miles a night (2.5 miles in a straight line). If the habitat is built up e.g thick woodland they will travel less miles per night. They may stay in the same place for a number of days or move month to month or completely vanish.

View our Ecology Survey Calendar to plan your Hedgehog Surveys

Hedgehog Surveys:

Sites are visually searched for the potential to support Hedgehogs. This included assessing the habitat types present on and around the site, as well as looking for evidence of hedgehog activity. A radius of up to 1km around a site is assessed for its potential to support hedgehogs.

Signs of hedgehog activity include:

  • Hedgehog nests.

  • Droppings.

  • Footprints.

  • Small tunnels through undergrowth.

Mammal footprint tunnels are positioned around the site and left for six consecutive nights with food. Each footprint tunnel track plate inside the tunnels has ink pads that hedgehogs step through to obtain food left inside the tunnels. On leaving the tunnels their footprint marks from the ink pads are left on blank recording sheets. From these observations you can understand how hedgehogs are moving around the site and a mitigation plan can be devised and strategies implemented for hedgehog conservation. Numbers of hedgehogs have suffered a sharp decline in recent years, therefore have become a priority species for conservation and monitoring.

Hedgehog Survey Timeline:

Hedgehog Survey

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