It's time to do your bit to check up on Britain's declining hedgehog population, as Annunicata Elwes reports.
The Mammal Society has launched its annual Hedgehog Watch Project to try to get a clearer picture of hedgehog numbers across Britain.
A long time gardener’s friend and once numerous, the hedgehog has seen a dramatic decline in the past few decades.
Though named for its habit of living in hedgerows, the hedgehog used to be a common and welcome sight in much of the UK, going about its business rooting for small insects, worms, slugs and snails.
But the population has plummeted: in the 1950s there were an estimated 30 million in Britain. Today there are fewer than one million, with a third of the decline believed to have been in the last decade. Indeed, a survey carried out at the start of this year reported that fewer than half of respondents had seen a single hedgehog during the whole of 2016.
The charity cites lack of garden habitat and traffic (although when did you last see a squashed hedgehog on the road?) as reasons for the prickly mammal’s demise. But there is another possibility: the increase in its main predator, the badger, whose strong jaws and leathery tongue can cope with such a spiky meal.
Either way, the Mammal Society wants to get the latest handle on hedgehog numbers. Keep an eye out for prickly little visitors in your garden and report your sightings to www.mammal.org.uk before December 1.