Irish public help record over 5,000 hedgehog sightings as part of a nationwide survey
Study found that hedgehogs are more abundant in urban than rural areas
Researchers urging citizen scientists to play their part and report sightings
Friday April 29, 2022: Researchers from NUI Galway, working with a team of enthusiastic volunteers, have recorded more than 5,000 hedgehog sightings across the island of Ireland, with the small mammals turning up more often in the town and city surveys.
Launched in 2020, the Irish Hedgehog Survey encourages members of the public to report hedgehog sightings online using a recording scheme with the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
Elaine O’Riordan, lead researcher on the project with the University’s Mammal Ecology Unit, said: “We were surprised at the difference; just over a third of surveys conducted in rural landscapes found hedgehogs while 70% of urban surveys recorded them. We know from recent reports from the UK that rural hedgehogs have suffered a greater decline than their urban cousins who have made their homes in gardens and parks.”
Oisín Duffy, Surveys and Records Officer for the National Biodiversity Data Centre, said: “Hedgehog was the most recorded of all plant and animal species in 2021. In total, across the 32 counties on the island, 1,977 individual recorders submitted 3043 sightings through the Citizen Science Portal.
“This is a phenomenal level of recording activity and shows the importance of targeted projects and recording initiatives, like the Irish Hedgehog Survey.”
In 2021, the research team sought volunteers to conduct a more detailed hedgehog survey in their local area using footprint tunnels. Between June and September, 112 local area surveys were carried out by volunteers across the whole country with hedgehogs recorded in 45% of sites.
To help researchers understand how hedgehogs use gardens in Ireland, more than 500 householders also volunteered to participat
e in the Garden Hedgehog Survey, reporting findings via an online questionnaire.
Early results indicate that urban and rural gardens are a very important habitat for hedgehogs.
Ms O’Riordan said: “We are still in the early days of our research and we are looking to deepen our understanding of hedgehog’s habitats. That’s why we are encouraging citizen scientists to get involved with the survey this summer again.”
The Irish Hedgehog Survey will continue for one more season, from May to September this year, with the help of citizen scientists.
Sightings can be reported via the online portal at https://bit.ly/3v3PJZB
Katy Bell, Senior Conservation Officer with Ulster Wildlife, said: “We are delighted to team up with NUI Galway again for this all-Ireland survey. More than 700 people in Northern Ireland signed up last year helping to shed light on this under-recorded species, but we need more volunteers to take part to help build a bigger picture, especially in counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Antrim.”
Volunteers who want to do some “hands on” surveys can take part in the Garden or Local Area hedgehog surveys. These would be suitable for interested individuals, schools, local wildlife or conservation groups and community and youth groups.
Further information on the surveys as well as details of training events are on the project website https://www.irishhedgehogsurvey.com/
For more information or to be informed on training and survey news email firstname.lastname@example.org
Workshops will be offered in early summer 2022 for interested persons to learn more about the survey and to provide volunteers with instructions and equipment needed.
Both online and live training events are planned throughout the summer with the Hedgehog Survey project partners – The National Biodiversity Data Centre, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage and Biodiversity Officers in the County Councils of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Kilkenny, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Dublin City. Ulster Wildlife are facilitating the survey in Northern Ireland.