Published: 00:01, 06 July 2017
A "worrying" drop in the amount of hedgehogs being found in Kent gardens has baffled experts.
There has been a decrease of nearly four per cent in the species, according to the latest conservation survey carried out by the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
It has been measuring the amount and types of wildlife found in people's back gardens for three years.
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Statistics show they have gone down continuously; with the sightings of hedgehogs dropping from 53.1 per cent in 2016 to 49.5 per cent this year.
Tim Webb, communications officer at the RSPB, said: "We're not entirely sure why hedgehogs have shown the biggest decline, but we are losing them which is worrying.
"It could be a mixture of reasons. Gardens have changed a great deal, they are more for leisure now than for food or for flowers and we’ve lost an awful lot of hedges.
"We’ve also lost quite a lot of space to hard-standing ground for patios or for car parking."
However, all is not lost. Mr Webb revealed some simple ways to help increase the amount of wildlife, without completely changing your garden.
He said: "The one thing that has come out of our survey for just general garden wildlife is that gardens are hugely important for wildlife and without our gardens we lose a huge arc of wildlife.
"Hedgehogs just need somewhere they can forage for food and they’ve got a fairly varied diet so they eat slugs, snails and beetles which is great for gardeners."
"We're not entirely sure why hedgehogs have shown the biggest decline, but we are losing them which is worrying" - Tim Webb
He added: "There are simple things you can do like planting wild flowers, re-planting hedges instead of solid barriers because hedgehogs love to wander and barriers won’t allow them to move freely from one space to another.
"Berries and fruit are also very important for wildlife as well and a whole range of seeds even just letting a bit of grass grow long around the edges of your garden is a huge help."
The survey also measured other species, including slow worms, stoats and grass snakes, all of which had also decreased apart from fox sightings which had actually increased by 1.4 per cent.
Mr Webb reckons a 'lack of food' and a change in 'agricultural practice' could be the cause so foxes are coming into residential areas to survive hence why there are more sightings.
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