Is climate change devastating Europe’s hedgehog population?

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European hedgehog

I get the impression that climate change causing hotter summers is having a devastating effect upon the hedgehog population in Europe. I think that you will find that the 10 hottest years on the planet have occurred in the last dozen or so years. It all points to climate change and there is real concern in Germany that this year’s dry and hot summer has had a disastrous effect upon hedgehogs.

There appears to be a precipitous decline in their numbers in Europe. It has been described as the worst summer in living memory for the animal.

Combining a dry summer with habitat destruction has taken its toll on this endearing species. One marker for the population size of hedgehogs in Europe is the number of animals killed on the road. That seems like a rather macabre way of measuring population numbers but apparently it is a good guide. And the number killed on roads has been declining with every year which supports the view that there is a long-term decline in population size.

European hedgehog

European hedgehog. Photo: Natural History Society of Northumbria.

The hedgehog is an endangered species in Bavaria and on their red list but the experts believe that this year’s drought has made matters considerably worse. They have asked residents to put out water and tinned cat food. They believe that the arid summer has had a negative impact on insect numbers upon which the hedgehog relies to sustenance.

They believe that many hedgehogs have died from thirst and starvation. Anne Berger of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wild Animal Research carries out surveys in Berlin’s parks and cemeteries. She found 55 hedgehogs in 2016 in Treptower Park. In her latest survey she found two.

In France, the French League for the Protection of Birds asked the public to help in counting the number of hedgehogs nationally after their rescue centre near Bordeaux treated 650 ill or injured hedgehogs in a few months.

A hedgehog count is also taking place in the Netherlands next month. A nature writer, Koos Dijksterhuis, has asked citizens to provide water for hedgehogs because of the extreme drought in their country.