Project to explore how survival of British hedgehogs is affected by changing climate

Researchers from our University will be exploring how the UK’s changing climate could be affecting the survival of British hedgehogs as part of a new project to protect endangered animal species.

The project, which is funded by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, will investigate whether warmer and wetter winters are impacting invertebrate food sources for hedgehogs, which would have a detrimental effect on their ability to survive.

Student Saadia Khan, who is being supervised by Dr Moya Burns from the University’s Department of Geography, is leading the study.

Example of hedgehog footprints
Saadia said: “Hedgehogs are known to periodically awake from hibernation and forage for short periods during warm winter spells. With warmer winters, these periods of winter waking may be increasing. This poses problems if the energy lost during winter waking is not replaced due to the lack of food sources available in the winter. The results from this study will help us understand how a changing climate is affecting British hedgehogs.”

Existing research on hedgehog activity is already under way at 12 sites at our University, which previously looked at Autumn food availability and activity of hedgehogs.

Saadia will build on this work by using footprint tracking tunnels to monitor hedgehog activity over winter. She will also put out data loggers to determine whether the frequency with which hedgehogs forage over winter has any relationship to the ambient temperature. By sampling for ground beetles, earthworms and slugs, Saadia will also be able to assess what food is available for hedgehogs over winter.