One of the UK's biggest inner-city hedgehog studies has revealed the nocturnal lives of one of Britain's best-loved mammals. With hedgehog numbers declining nationwide, the importance of understanding hedgehog needs and behaviour is greater than ever and vital to inform hedgehog friendly conservation.
The study run by the Royal Parks Foundation and in partnership with The Royal Parks and The Zoological Society of London, began in 2014 and confirmed the presence of around 40-50 animals in The Regent's Park.
The hedgehogs have been predominantly found foraging and nesting in a mosaic of grassland, shrubberies and hedges, with analysis showing that they travelled up to 1.5km a night the same distance as the Underground line between The Regent's Park and Angel. The average weight of the hedgehogs surveyed was 960g, well above the national average, suggesting The Regent's Park has an abundance of food. Hedgehogs are insectivore, their favourite food including slugs, caterpillars and beetles, giving them the deserved reputation as a real gardener's friend.
This year's survey again focuses on finding as many hedgehogs as possible in the park to begin to detect population trends and understand more about their nocturnal behaviour and habitat preferences.
"Last year's research findings have led to a change in habitat management," says Nick Biddle, Park Manger at The Regent's Park. "Grassland adjacent to hedges will be left to grow longer to provide a richer environment for hedgehogs foraging and nesting."
Julia Clark, Head of Ecology at The Royal Parks said: "Everyone can help reverse the trend of this declining species by planting native hedges, leaving wild areas in gardens and making small holes in walls or fences to connect gardens."
Technology played a huge part in 2015's studies, with thermal imaging cameras being used, a rarity in these types of projects, along with radio tagging and GPS tracking. A DNA analysis is also planned for the summer to find out more about the genetic make-up of this small population.
For more information on the research visit the Royal Parks Foundation website.