Hedgehogs slow to get going this spring

No.:  2013-16
March 2013

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.

Hedgehog by Mike Toms/BTO

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 (below) shows how the cold weather of February and March held emergence back, underlining that Hedgehogs are only now emerging from hibernation.

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."

He continued "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.

 Notes for Editors

  1. The ‘reporting rate’ is a measure of garden use and is expressed calculated by using the number of sites at which Hedgehogs were reported, divided by the number of sites at which the recording of mammals takes place.

    More information on Hedgehogs in gardens can be found on the BTO website (www.bto.org/gbw)

    Roos et al. (2012) UK Hedgehog Datasets and their potential for long-term monitoring. BTO Research Report 598. Produced for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.  (The report can be downloaded from here.
  2. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw
  3. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org

Contact Details

Mike Toms
(BTO Head of Garden Ecology)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: mike.toms [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

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