It’s all pretty anecdotal at the moment but 2020 looks to be a good year for hedgehogs. It will be interesting to see if any more formal research is going to be done but two main things suggest good news for hedgehogs.
- Many hedgehogs had a double litter last year,
- Lockdown has greatly reduced roadkill.
I have no figures to back it up. It’s purely based on my own observations and those of people that I talk to. I’ve certainly seen more hedgehogs in the last 3 months than I’ve seen in many years. People I talk to in Newport, South Wales, have also said similar. A couple has said they now have hedgehogs back living in their gardens after 20 years of absence.
It all started to look good for hedgehogs last year in 2019.
Climate has played a role in this possible boom time for hedgehogs. Last year many hedgehogs had an early breeding season which allowed them to have a rare second mating season later in the year. The warm start and finish to the year helped many species.
One of the bad things about that late second litter was there were a lot of underweight hoglets unable to hibernate successfully. Many wildlife hospitals and carers were inundated with tiny, hungry hoglets. Thanks to the help of countless volunteers and wildlife lovers a high percentage of these hoglets survived the winter months and were released early this year back into the wild.
At this point, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to our UK wildlife rescue fund appeal to buy sacks of specialist hedgehog food. We were able to buy and distribute 47 sacks of our target for 50 sacks. They went a long way to help carers meet the cost of feeding the hoglets through the winter.
COVID lockdown reduced hedgehogs killed on the roads
The second thing that has helped set up 2020 as a year that will help hedgehogs is the lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic. One of the biggest threats to wild hedgehogs is road traffic. But with traffic down by 70% the hedgehogs have had a good year. It’s highly likely that roadkill numbers have dropped as sharply as well. One report has roadkill numbers dropping by two-thirds.
Personally I’ve not seen as much road kill as I normally do. The reduction in car numbers has almost certainly helped hedgehogs and other wildlife through the breeding season.
I think there is probably a good population of juvenile hedgehogs around. If there is a continued reduction in vehicle traffic then going into next year the numbers look good. Hedgehogs start to breed in their second year. The combination of a good breeding season last year and increased survival this year means the larger and healthy population will begin breeding next year.
Will road traffic continue to stay low. Almost certainly not as low as during the lockdown but surveys show that as many as 20% of car owners plan on using their car less even after the crisis is over.
Keep eyes open for hedgehogs in your garden
Now is a good time to keep an eye out on your garden to see if you have any hedgehogs visiting. Take particular care when trimming borders that you don’t injure a hiding hedgehog. If you do think you have one think about finding some way of providing a home for it. You can buy a hedgehog house or make one yourself. Hedgehogs make great gardeners friends as they eat a lot of pests.
Check out how to find out if you have hedgehogs in your garden and how to help them if you do. It could be that you’ve rediscovered a new friend even if you’ve not had hedgehogs in your garden for many years.
And if you do see one, don’t forget to add it to the Big Hedgehog Map.