They are among the best-loved creatures in the British countryside, thanks to Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
But it is much harder to spot a hedgehog in your garden than it used to be, a survey suggests.
Sightings of hedgehogs in British gardens have fallen for a second year, with almost six in 10 people saying they did not see one in 2017.
The annual hedgehog survey by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine found just nine per cent regularly saw their own Mrs Tiggy-Winkle at home last year.
Sightings of hedgehogs in British gardens have fallen for a second year, with almost six in 10 people saying they did not see one in 2017
It follows warnings of a hedgehog crisis, with numbers of the creatures having halved to 750,000 since the turn of the century. The spread of farmland is thought to be forcing the spiky creatures out of the hedges and copses they rely on for nesting and protection.
While 48 per cent of people failed to see a hedgehog in their garden in 2015, that percentage rose to 51 per cent in 2016 and 57 per cent last year, according to the survey of more than 1,700 people.
Kevin Smith, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine deputy editor, said: ‘It’s alarming to see numbers of our cherished hedgehogs continuing to decline, as they’re such a vital part of any healthy garden and, more widely, our ecosystem.
‘On a positive note, British gardeners are doing more than ever to try to save them – with a reduction in slug pellets the biggest single action taken in the last year.’ The nine per cent of 1,718 respondents who saw hedgehogs regularly in their garden last year is down from 12 per cent in 2016.
But greater awareness of the plight of hedgehogs is prompting more gardeners to take steps to help them, findings from the survey suggest.
It found one in six people had cut a hole in their garden fence to help hedgehogs roam around, with more than a third keeping leaves and twigs in their gardens for the mammals to nest in.
The annual hedgehog survey by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine found just nine per cent regularly saw their own Mrs Tiggy-Winkle at home last year
Almost two in five people said they had stopped using slug pellets because of hedgehogs, following evidence the creatures’ reproductive success could be harmed by a chemical they contain.
Slightly more people were taking each of the actions than in 2016, the survey shows.
In 1995, there were 1.5 million hedgehogs recorded in the British countryside, but the national population estimate fell to 750,000 last year.
It is feared agriculture is reducing the numbers of earthworms and slugs which hedgehogs feed on and that they are being killed by badgers and country roads.
But while numbers are in decline in the country, the rate of decline in urban areas is slowing, with suburban gardens, parks and green spaces providing valuable habitats.
Despite a fall in numbers of a third since 2000 in towns and cities, in some places they may be returning and numbers growing, a report from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species said.