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      Patterns of Feeding by Householders Affect Activity of Hedgehogs ( Erinaceus europaeus) during the Hibernation Period

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          Abstract

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          Urban areas are thought to represent a stronghold habitat for the West European hedgehog population in the UK. However, little is known about hibernation patterns in residential areas and if overwinter activity is influenced by any ”urban-associated” factors. We monitored hedgehog activity in gardens during the winter hibernation period of 2017–2018 using weekly presence/absence surveys. Hedgehogs were more likely to be present in gardens where householders had provided food in previous seasons or where food was supplied more regularly in a given season. Such relationships could have positive or negative effects on the survival or condition of hedgehogs across the hibernation period. Consequently, further research is needed to identify the effects of supplementary feeding on hibernation biology to help inform conservation guidelines for householders.

          Abstract

          West European hedgehogs ( Erinaceus europaeus) are likely to encounter unusual ecological features in urban habitats, such as anthropogenic food sources and artificial refugia. Quantifying how these affect hedgehog behaviour is vital for informing conservation guidelines for householders. We monitored hedgehog presence/absence in gardens in the town of Reading, UK, over the winter of 2017–2018 using a volunteer-based footprint tunnel survey, and collected data on garden characteristics, supplementary feeding (SF) habits, and local environmental conditions. Over a 20-week survey period, hedgehog presence was lowest between January and March. Occupancy analysis indicated that SF significantly affected hedgehog presence/absence before, during, and after hibernation. The number of nesting opportunities available in gardens, average temperatures, and daylength were also supported as important factors at different stages. In particular, our results suggest that SF could act to increase levels of activity during the winter when hedgehogs should be hibernating. Stimulating increased activity at this sensitive time could push hedgehogs into a net energy deficit or, conversely, help some individuals survive which might not otherwise do so. Therefore, further research is necessary to determine whether patterns of feeding by householders have a positive or negative effect on hedgehog populations during the hibernation period.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Wildlife health and supplemental feeding: A review and management recommendations

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            Dormancy in Invertebrates

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              Hibernation and longevity in the Turkish hamster Mesocricetus brandti.

              A positive correlation was found between the length of life of 288 Turkish hamsters and the amount of time spent in hibernation, suggesting that the process of aging is slowed during hibernation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Animals (Basel)
                Animals (Basel)
                animals
                Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
                MDPI
                2076-2615
                04 August 2020
                August 2020
                : 10
                : 8
                Affiliations
                School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AS, UK; p.j.baker@ 123456reading.ac.uk
                Author notes
                Article
                animals-10-01344
                10.3390/ani10081344
                7460126
                32759762
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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