Regent’s Park is the last of central London’s Royal Parks to have retained a resident population of wild hedgehogs, according to the results of one of the UK’s biggest studies of inner-city hedgehogs.
With hedgehog numbers in nationwide decline, the importance of understanding the needs and behaviour of one of Britain’s best-loved mammals is greater than ever – and vital to inform hedgehog-friendly conservation.
The study, which started in 2014, was run by the Royal Parks Foundation and leading scientists, with the support of 100 nocturnal volunteers. It confirmed the presence of around 40 animals in Regent’s Park – a relatively small number considering the size (166 ha) of the park – which raises concerns about the viability of the population in the long term.
Most of the hedgehogs have been found foraging and nesting in a mosaic of grassland, shrubberies and hedges, with analysis showing that they travelled up to 1.5km a night. That’s the same distance as the Underground line between Regent’s Park and Angel!
The average weight of the hedgehogs surveyed was 960g – well above the national average, which suggests Regent’s Park has an abundance of food. Hedgehogs are insectivores; with slugs, caterpillars and beetles among their favourite foods, they have a deserved reputation for being a real gardener’s friend.
This year’s survey, which has been filmed by BBC nature programme, Springwatch, 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.
Finding out where they make their nest during the day is also a top survey priority this year, as these are key refuges from the eight million people and dogs who visit the Park every year! The findings will help inform hedgehog-friendly habitat management to help safeguard the population’s future in Regent’s Park and other parklands across the country.
‘This survey brings together expert scientists, wildlife conservation organisations and local volunteers. One of the important aims of the project is to educate the park users about the resident hedgehog population so that they will help protect and support them in future.’
Sara Lom, CEO of the Royal Parks Foundation