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Intra- and interhabitat differences in hedgehog distribution and potential prey availability
With little previous research on the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus Linnaeus) in Ireland, 22 hedgehogs (16 females and six males) were tagged at a rural Irish site between June 2008 and November 2009. Transect, surveying surface invertebrates were carried out in the centre and hedgerow in arable and pasture lands distributed throughout the site. In both years, hedgehogs selected arable land and this coincided with a rise in invertebrate density. This and the fact that within the arable field hedgehogs concentrated their activity where there was a greater density of potential prey suggest that hedgehogs learn the spatial location of prospective food. Contrary to other research, in most of the hedgehogs’ home range, individuals consistently foraged in the centre of both pasture and arable lands. Potential prey was lower in fields where the hedgerow had no bramble understory, and this suggests that hedgerow with good ground cover acts as an important reserve for invertebrates. Badgers (Meles meles Linnaeus) were seen on 12 occasions within the hedgehogs’ home range and they did not appear to have a negative effect on the hedgehogs’ use of the site. It was concluded that the main factor affecting the hedgehogs’ distribution within each habitat was the availability and accessibility of potential prey.
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