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Hedgehogs love the Heath, too – and can you help find them?

PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 07:30 27 February 2020

Rachel Cates sets up a camera trap. Picture: Dr Chris Carbone /  London Hogwatch

Rachel Cates sets up a camera trap. Picture: Dr Chris Carbone / London Hogwatch

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The Heath is a hedgehog’s favourite place to live in London, according to researchers from the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Hogwatch programme.

A hedgehog. Picture: PA / Ben BirchallA hedgehog. Picture: PA / Ben Birchall

Camera traps - often used to monitor wildlife activity - were triggered by hedgehogs more on the Heath than anywhere else. And now the research team are keen to investigate nearby parks allotments and gardens.

Led by Rachel Cates, an intern funded by the wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), and with the support of Dr Chris Carbone, a senior research fellow at ZSL, London Hogwatch works to "identify key populations and promote urban wildlife conservation".

Dr Carbone told Heathwatch: "At over 50 per cent of the sites on the Heath we had hedgehogs. Bearing mind much of the Heath is thick vegetation, there are probably lots of other places. There could quite easily be a couple of hundred hedgehogs in that area."

The latest information comes from cameras which were in place across a variety of locations for a fortnight during 2019.

Rachel Cates sets up a camera trap. Picture: Dr Chris Carbone /  London HogwatchRachel Cates sets up a camera trap. Picture: Dr Chris Carbone / London Hogwatch

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Dr Carbone added: "The next thing we want to do is to try to work to survey the surrounding green spaces. We would love to look into the allotments in Fitzroy Park, and perhaps even some private gardens."

In 2017 a similar survey also showed the Heath as the top hedgehog habitat in London. This is a stark contrast to other areas of London such as Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye and Common, and Russia Dock Woodland where only a single hedgehog was detected.

Dr Carbone added: "We would like to reach out to the community to see if they can put camera traps in their gardens. People are building up their properties more and more up there, and building can stop wildlife getting around."

The ecologist, who has worked across the globe primarily with "big carnivores", said: "Hedgehogs have a lot of the same problems. It's about access to habitats."

Rachel Cates explained other green spaces could be "more isolated" than the Heath, "meaning there's no safe passages to enable hedgehogs to access these sites from outside".

If you are interested in getting involved with London Hogwatch, or having a camera trap in your own garden, contact hogwatch@zsl.org or @londonhogwatch on Twitter.

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