Researchers are investigating how many hedgehogs are killed on our roads in a bid to help the UK’s declining population.
A Nottingham Trent University team will also study whether tunnels under roads could reduce the number of deaths.
Experts believe the animals are struggling with lost habitats, increased competition and traffic.
Researchers hope this study could help stop the creatures’ decline and provide guidance for planners and developers.
The study, part funded by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), will assess the numbers of hedgehogs killed on roads, as well as how many live in the area.
It will help determine whether the problem is so serious in some places that the local population is at risk of disappearing,.
It will also look at which hedgehogs – males or females, young or old – are most at risk of being injured or killed.
The study will take place in a dozen sites across the UK, six of which have tunnels of various sizes to help animals pass under roads safely.
Lauren Moore, a PhD student in the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: “We need to know whether roads are affecting the long-term viability of hedgehog populations.
“To the best of our knowledge, the impact of roads on hedgehogs has not been investigated in this way before.
“There have also been no studies to examine whether tunnels are effective at reducing hedgehog road mortality or what attributes of a tunnel could make them more effective.”
A “state of Britain’s hedgehogs” report, published in 2018 by PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, revealed a 30% drop in the number of hedgehogs in urban areas since 2000.
Hedgehog numbers declined by half in rural areas in that time, the report found.
Nida Al-Fulaij, grants manager at PTES, said: “Lauren’s work could help save this iconic species from further decline.”