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Regent’s Park Hedgehogs and End of Year Social 2015

11 November 2015

The South East Section’s last event of 2015 included a talk and social held at The Lookout in Hyde Park, with many thanks to The Royal Parks Foundation for the venue and talk.

A fascinating talk about the hedgehog population in Regent’s Park, central London, was delivered by Clare Bowen of the Foundation, with Dr Nigel Reeve and Emeritus Prof of Ecology John Gurnell (scientific advisors to the Foundation for the project).  The talk included a summary of the ecology of hedgehogs, a description of the various monitoring methods employed for the Regent’s Park hedgehog surveys in 2014 and 2015, and presented the findings of the surveys including an estimate of the hedgehog population, their use of the Park, and a discussion of the threats to this vulnerable population.  Further information can be found here: http://www.supporttheroyalparks.org/visit_the_parks/the_regents_park/hedgehogs

The survey methods included spotlighting and use of footprint tunnels and camera traps, with technology playing a huge part in the 2015 study in particular, with thermal imaging cameras, radio tagging and GPS tracking. The study was also notable for the involvement of over 100 volunteers who contributed hugely to the project’s success.    

The 2014 surveys found a small hedgehog population, estimated to be around 40-50 individuals. Young animals were found in both September 2014 and 2015 confirming that the population had bred.  Fewer hedgehogs were found in September 2015, highlighting that this is a small and very vulnerable which is possibly declining (although monitoring will need to continue for a number of years to confirm a trend).

The hedgehogs were found to prefer foraging in short grassland within a mosaic of shrubberies and hedges. They avoided large areas of very short grass such as the sports pitches.  They preferred to nest in areas of dense undergrowth such as brambles, ivy or hedges with dense vegetation at their base, where they use fallen leaves and grass to constructed their nests.

The study also found that the hedgehogs travelled up to 1.5 km, nearly one mile, per night – quite a distance for such a small mammal!

The survey findings have been used to identify key areas of the park used by the hedgehogs, and to identify potential threats to the population.  Habitat management recommendations have also been developed by the Foundation so that the Regent's Park team can continue to maintain the Park in a ‘hedgehog-friendly’ way. The study was also a very valuable tool to help raise awareness about hedgehog conservation, with a dramatic and worrying decline in numbers in the UK identified in recent years.

Following the talk the social got underway, providing a chance to catch up with friends and meet new people.  There was also a chance to play with the thermal imaging cameras used for the hedgehog surveys…very brave of the Foundation, although given the amount of wine left over after the event the risk was low – who knew the South East’s members were such an abstemious bunch?!  

Written by Peter Lawrence, South East England Section Convenor
Photo by David Green, LUC

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