Hartpury animal lecturer Lucy Bearman-Brown shared her expertise on the latest edition of Countryfile as the popular BBC magazine programme tackled the topic of declining hedgehog numbers.
Lucy, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science at Hartpury, is currently studying for a PhD looking at the impact that humans and environmental change are having on the hedgehog population.
On Countryfile, she discussed with presenter Tom Heap what farmers could do to improve their land for hedgehogs, following studies indicating that numbers had dropped by half in rural areas since 2000.
Walking alongside a hedgerow with Tom, Lucy explained: “Hedgerow is a great example of how hedgehogs can move through the landscape.
“Here we’ve got an example of some long grass and we’ve got some nettle, and those sorts of shrubby herbs are really useful for nesting material.
“Hedgerows like this are really useful for insect biodiversity as well, so they’re really good for providing a broad diet for hedgehogs.”
Asked how farmers could provide suitable habitat, she replied: “Protecting hedgerows as much as possible is really important and allowing them to grow up so that they’ve got a complex range of species within the hedge.
“Allowing it to be a little bit messy can be really helpful for allowing hedgehogs to be able to move around within it and be protected from predators.”
Lucy went on to explain how hedgehogs also used woodpiles in woodland copses as places to nest, as indicated by studies carried out at Hartpury, and as protection from predators and harsh winter weather.
When Tom pointed out that farmers were already providing habitat for hedgehogs, Lucy replied: “For sure, and the more we can do that, the better it is for hedgehogs.
“A really important part of that is actually connecting them together, so it’s not just about having those patches isolated in the countryside, it’s about having them connected together through good quality hedgerow to allow hedgehogs to move around the landscape.
“They have to be connected – that’s the important point.”
Lucy’s research radio-tracking hedgehogs on the Hartpury estate was funded by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
For more information about hedgehogs, click here
Picture: Lucy Bearman-Brown being interviewed by Tom Heap on Countryfile