Hedgehogs slow to get going this spring


Latest results from the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey have revealed that British Hedgehogs are emerging from hibernation very late this spring. This weekly survey, which covers mammals as well as birds, shows that Hedgehog emergence is roughly a month behind what was seen in 2011 and 2012. The long winter may also have led to increased levels of overwinter mortality.

The latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) Garden BirdWatch show that Hedgehog emergence is a month behind where it was in 2011 and 2012, suggesting that it is likely to have been a particularly difficult winter for this declining species. The weekly 'reporting rate' graph shows how the cold weather of February and March held emergence back, underlining that Hedgehogs are only now emerging from hibernation.

Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
Hedgehog (Peter Broster)

Mike Toms, BTO Head of Garden Ecology, commented: "The late emergence of Hedgehogs from hibernation is in sharp contrast to what happened last year and is perhaps unsurprising given the weather that we have had. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks and to discover what impact, if any, this late emergence might have on the 2013 breeding season. We had a later than usual emergence in 2010 as well, but still not as late as this year. Worryingly, the 2010 season was curtailed by a poor autumn, so it is fingers crossed that things are better for Hedgehogs this year."

British Hedgehog populations are in decline, as revealed by a recent review of figures from a suite of monitoring studies (Roos et al. 2012). BTO Garden BirdWatch is one of a number of studies that are being used to monitor Hedgehog populations, providing additional information on hibernation patterns. Some 15,000 Garden BirdWatchers keep a weekly record of the birds and other wildlife using their gardens, information that can then be used by BTO researchers to examine changes in garden use over time. More than half of the participants submit their records online, providing an almost real-time measure of what is happening to our wildlife.

Written by: BTO