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The hedgehog is regularly voted Britain’s favourite mammal, and yet we know surprisingly little about the life of this spiny mammal. Pat Morris provides an all-encompassing new study of the hedgehog and its habitat, shedding new light on conservation efforts crucial to the survival of this charming creature of our countryside.
In recent years the hedgehog has ousted the badger, dolphin and red squirrel from heading the list of the most popular British animals. It is now regularly voted Britain’s favourite, and yet we know surprisingly little about the life of this, our only spiny mammal. Much of what we think we know is based on only a small number of studies, but with the hedgehog gaining in public prominence, support from key charities has enabled a significant enhancement in research activity that continues to illuminate the life of this very special prickly animal.
Hedgehogs have had a long association with humans, extending back to Ancient Egypt and beyond. Strong public support makes it an ideal flagship species for encouraging public acceptance of nature conservation principles, particularly in the urban environment. In a worrying development, after surviving for millions of years and outlasting mammoths and sabre-toothed cats, the hedgehog population now appears to be in serious decline. In our modern world, its plight appears to be worsening, due to the loss and fragmentation of habitats in Britain’s towns and countryside. The insidious effects of pesticides and the intensification of farming result in habitats that offer little support in the way of suitable foraging or nesting sites. There are also many deaths on the roads.
In this timely addition to the New Naturalist Library, Pat Morris provides the first fully comprehensive overview of the hedgehog’s life, including hibernation, behaviour and numbers, also its relationship with people from being a statutory pest to become a protected and cherished friend. Ideas are offered for conservation efforts and public participation crucial to the survival of this iconic creature.
Praise for the New Naturalist series:
‘Taken either individually or as a whole, they are one of the proudest achievements of modern publishing’ The Sunday Times
‘The series is an amazing achievement’ The Times Literary Supplement
‘The books are glorious to own’ Independent
About the author
Dr Pat Morris was Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is best known for his studies on hedgehogs over the last 50 years, but also studied water voles, bats and dormice. He was a Council member of the National Trust and (for six years) Chairman of its Nature Conservation Advisory Panel. He was a Vice President of the London Wildlife Trust and is a member of two other county wildlife trusts, the RSPB, various other conservation organisations and the first Honorary Life Member of the Guild of Taxidermists. In September 2000 he was appointed President of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and is a key scientific advisor to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. He has published over 80 scientific papers, mostly about mammals, and also books on bats, dormice, hedgehogs and (with his wife) the natural history of lakes. He is a popular lecturer on various aspects of natural history and for many years contributed to radio programmes for the BBC and helped to make the TV films The Great Hedgehog Mystery and The Incredible Edible Dormouse. In 2015 he was made MBE for ‘services to the historic and natural environment’.