January 18, 2012
Volunteers Being Asked For Help With Hedgehog Research
Wildlife charities in Britain are asking for the public's help in determining if hedgehogs are being affected by climate change.
Dr. Pat Morris performed a study 40 years ago that showed how temperature affects the animal's hibernation patterns.
The retired hedgehog expert is joining with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People's Trust for Endangered Species to see if warming since then has changed the time when the animals emerge from hibernation.
Estimates say the population dropped from 30 million in the 1950s to 1.5 million in 1995. The spread of urban landscapes and industrial farming have helped play a role in the population decrease.
Morris conducted a survey trying to map hedgehog populations across the U.K. while doing research at Royal Holloway.
"We took observations of hedgehogs that people had sent in for mapping," he told BBC News. "And later on we looked at the dates on the records - the point in the year by when people had made 50% of their observations - and we could compare records between the north and the south.
"And what we found was that the hedgehogs were being observed about three weeks later in Scotland than they were in the south - or another way of putting it is that they were emerging from hibernation three weeks earlier in the south."
Hedgehogs hibernate just below freezing point, and the wildlife charities are asking the public to make observations between February and August of hedgehog sightings.
Volunteers can then submit their findings on the project's website, enabling researchers to compare records of today against those from the 1970s.
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