The results of our hedgehog survey are in

(c) Tom Marshall

They’re snuffly, cute and loveable, they’re a little bit weird and completely wonderful; but when was the last time you saw a hedgehog?

Though they’re one of the UK’s best-loved mammals, these once-common garden visitors are disappearing from under our very nose. In fact, our country’s hedgehogs are deteriorating as quickly as tiger populations are across the world.

We wanted to learn more about how hedgehogs are faring locally, so in November 2019 we ran a survey to try and build a picture of the state of hedgehog populations right across our region. From Barnoldswick to Formby, 512 of you logged your sightings on our website, revealing that hogs across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside have mixed fortunes.

A map of hedgehog sightings across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Hedgehog sightings across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside from November - December 2019

How are hedgehogs faring in our region?

The good news is that of the 512 hedgehog sightings logged through our survey, 454 were of live hedgehogs. 18 of the sightings were, sadly, of dead hogs, while 30 were of roadkill.

17 of the people who filled in our survey reported seeing more than one hedgehog at once, while 37 specified seeing hogs in their garden – hooray for hedgehog-friendly gardens!

However, not all the news is positive. Seven people said they’d never seen a hedgehog, while three people couldn't remember the last time they saw one and 11 people said the last time they saw a hog was more than 10 years ago, which is very worrying.

The bulk of hedgehog sightings came from cities and other urban environments, with 66 in Manchester, 100 in Preston and 38 in Bolton, for example. Unfortunately, higher traffic levels in cities mean these were also the places where most roadkill hedgehogs were reported.

The high number of urban sightings in our survey tallies with national conservation data stating that the countryside is becoming less and less habitable for our snuffly friends. Widespread use of pesticides reduces the invertebrates hedgehogs eat; larger, more exposed fields created by intensive agriculture leave hedgehogs more vulnerable to predators and give them fewer places to find food; and flailing hedges leads to gappy bases that are poor for nesting.

Will you speak up for me?

So, where offers the best hedgehog habitat in the modern age?

As we analysed the results of the survey, one distinct trend emerged across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. Most hedgehog sightings came from quite densely populated, suburban communities where the houses have gardens and are near, or next to green pockets bordered by trees or hedges that provide valuable cover. These areas appear to act as crucial hedgehog corridors where these vulnerable mammals can roam on their nightly foraging trips.

This data is a real indication of just how important hedgehog-friendly areas are. When managed sympathetically, gardens in particular can be a real lifeline, but when over-managed, can pose a serious threat. Potential nesting and hibernation sites are being removed by over-tidy management, while paving, decking and the removal of grass, trees and plants mean hogs can no longer live their normal garden lifestyle. The use of pesticides, herbicides and slug pellets means there are fewer insects and invertebrates for hedgehogs to eat, too.

Add in further habitat fragmentation by roads, building developments, fences and walls, and it’s little surprise our spiky friends are struggling.

What’s next for hedgehogs in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside?

We’ve passed the results of our hedgehog survey to each of our region’s environmental records centres:

The data will be used to build an even bigger picture of our local hogs’ fortunes, joining thousands of other important records from people across our region.

As a Trust, we’re working tirelessly with local landowners and local communities to help turn the fortunes of hedgehogs and other wildlife around. We want pesticides to be phased out, we want to see farming and nature working in harmony and we believe that wilder gardens and urban areas are better for both wildlife and people.

Though our hedgehog survey has now closed, you can still play your part in the recovery of these iconic creatures…

Help us continue helping hedgehogs

By becoming a member you'll be funding our conservation work on your doorstep.

Join us today

When you see a hedgehog, email the relevant record centre

Find out how

Tom Marshall

Download our simple guide to helping hedgehogs thrive in your garden

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Ox-eye daisies by Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography