Nearly half the population of hedgehogs has been lost from the British countryside over the last two decades, two charities have warned.
A report issued jointly by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) show numbers have plummeted by half since 2000.
The report, the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018, shows that the animals in rural areas are in severe decline.
Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for Hedgehog Street, a public campaign run by PTES and BHPS, said: “There are many reasons why hedgehogs are in trouble.
“The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides, which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas.
“Farmers play a vital role in producing food, but they’re also well placed to help protect.”
She added: “The Government recently reiterated plans to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy to reward landowners for delivering environmental benefits.
“Many farmers already have a sustainable approach to agriculture, and we think there’s a great opportunity to work more widely with them to stem the alarming decline of our country hedgehogs.”
Although the report highlights a worrying decline in the countryside, it shows a more positive outlook for hedgehogs in towns and cities. The species has declined by a third in urban areas since 2000, but the rate of decline is slowing.
Ms Wilson added: “Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs so we need more people in those locations to sign up as Hedgehog Champions.
“Hedgehogs are a generalist species so the more people can do to help them in their own back garden, the more they will also benefit other wildlife.”