Over-Winter Survival and Nest Site Selection of the West-European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in Arable Dominated Landscapes
Department of Animal & Agriculture, Hartpury University, Gloucestershire GL19 3BE, UK
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AH, UK
School of Life Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK
School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 July 2020 / Revised: 12 August 2020 / Accepted: 13 August 2020 / Published: 19 August 2020
Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) have declined markedly in the UK in recent decades. One key stage that could affect their population dynamics is the annual winter hibernation period. Therefore, we studied two contrasting populations in England to examine patterns of winter nest use, body mass changes and survival during hibernation. On average, animals at both sites weighed the same prior to, and used the same number of nests, during hibernation. There was a marked difference in survival rates between the two sites, but no animals died during hibernation; all deaths occurred prior to or after the hibernation period, mainly from predation or vehicle collisions. Hedgehogs consistently nested in proximity to some habitats (hedgerows, roads, woodlands) but avoided others (pasture fields); the use of other habitats (arable fields, amenity grassland, buildings) varied between the two sites. These data suggest: (i) that hibernation was not a period of significant mortality at either site for individuals that had attained a sufficient weight (>600 g) in autumn; but that (ii) habitat composition did significantly affect the positioning of winter nests, such that different land management practices (historic and current) could influence hibernation success.