|Photo by Laurie Campbell|
Geoffrey Lean accurately identifies the big questions about hedgehogs (Our humble hedgehog is disappearing fast. Comment 5th March).
Although hedgehogs are easy to catch and mark there has never been any systematic survey of them in the 70% of Britain that is farmland. In that wider countryside the trend in hedgehog numbers is unknown, and we have few estimates of local density.
As both predator and prey, the hedgehog is in the middle of a food web that is grossly distorted by human activities. Intriguingly, exploratory GPS tracking in Wiltshire showed that hedgehogs favoured gardens even in the middle of farmland; but we don’t know whether this is because productive farmland is devoid of prey, or because it has too many predators.
The farmed environment has been the chosen arena of GWCT for more than 70 years, and many of the ideas about hedgehog decline are familiar from our best-researched gamebird, the grey partridge.
Recently GWCT decided to include the hedgehog in its research, as resources allow. We hope to discover what is really going on, and identify how to manage farmland to achieve the most satisfactory balance between all our native species, while still feeding the humans.
Dr Jonathan Reynolds
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
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