Scientists from ZSL (Zoological Society of London)’s London HogWatch programme have found hotspots of native hedgehog populations in the north and west of London, compared to the south east of the city.
The research, led by Rachel Cates – an Intern funded by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) – and supported by Dr Chris Carbone, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, involved placing hundreds of camera traps in several green spaces across the capital, from Haringey to Camden and from Southwark to Barnes. The cameras recorded any wildlife spotted over a two-week period throughout 2019.
The largest population found so far in Hampstead Heath in north Greater London, where there were a number of hedgehog records across the park. In the west of London – in the WWT Wetland Centre, Barnes Common, Putney Lower Common, Roehampton Golf Course, the Bank of England Sports Centre and on Palewell Common, 62 sightings were recorded within this area, with hedgehogs spotted on 13 of the 30 cameras set up in the WWT Wetland Centre alone. Hedgehogs were also seen across Barnes and on Putney Lower Common, but their distributions were fragmented.
However, snuffle south east across the city and a different picture is painted in Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye and Common, and Russia Dock Woodland. Only a single hedgehog was detected out of 65 camera locations. From the many records of foxes seen in these areas, it’s clear these areas are generally suitable for wildlife. As hedgehogs and foxes often live side by side, these areas should support hedgehogs, but the team are uncertain why they weren’t recorded. Occasional sightings are recorded in these areas, so it’s possible that hedgehogs are living in the areas surrounding the parks, in private gardens, allotments and school grounds.
Rachel Cates, PTES’ Intern, explains: “Interestingly, the habitat in the green spaces we investigated in the Southwark area is very similar to the areas where hedgehogs appear to be doing well. We don’t know why hedgehogs would be doing so well in some areas, but less so in others, when the habitats look similar. One explanation could be that these areas are isolated from larger green spaces, meaning there’s no safe passages to enable hedgehogs to access these sites from outside.”