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Flanders’ hedgehogs in danger of dying out
The European hedgehog is in danger in Flanders, with numbers dwindling to half what they were 10 years ago. A number of issues have come together to endanger the little spine-covered mammal.
Between 2008 and 2018, there were 6,709 hedgehog sightings in Flanders. The number has dropped every year, and last year was about half of 2008’s figure.
The UK and Germany has the same problem, though it is more acute in Flanders. There are several reasons for the decline, according to conversation agency Natuurpunt.
The animal’s habitat is becoming more and more limited in the region, as construction projects continue. Hedgehogs like to live and feed in hedgerows (hence the name) and in the perimeters of forests, both of which are in decline.
Hedgehogs eat a lot of insects that they find in forests and in gardens, but the increasing use of pesticides are working to decimate insect populations in some areas. The hedgehogs sometimes turn to other sources of food that are less suitable – and sometimes even deadly to them – such as slugs and snails.
And finally, hedgehogs have the unfortunate honour of being the biggest victim of roadkill in Flanders. With one of the most saturated road networks in Europe, the region sees a lot of small mammals run over by cars.
“Research is needed to know exactly what is happening to the hedgehog,” said Diemer Vacayie, a biologist with Natuurpunt. “But we can’t wait until then to take concrete measures, like the UK has done with its 10-year hedgehog conservation strategy plan.”
The organisations also asks homeowners to help the hedgehog, which is well-known for eating pests and not vegetable gardens. It offers tips to make gardens hedgehog friendly. Anyone who sees a hedgehog, which are largely nocturnal, are asks to report it on Flanders’ animal observation website.