New study sounds the alarm as Zurich hedgehog populations plummet

New study sounds the alarm as Zurich hedgehog populations plummet

A new study of wild animals in Berlin, Vienna and Zurich has raised the alarm over the plight of hedgehogs in the Swiss metropolis. They found that while populations of some Swiss wildlife are thriving, the humble Igel is in trouble.

Zurich badger and squirrel populations on the rise

Writing in the report, the Urban Wild Animals (StadtWildTiere) project noted that each of the three cities “has its own wildlife footprint” that has continued to develop over the years. For instance, they found that Berlin has thriving populations of wild boar and raccoons, while Vienna’s rabbits have been breeding like… well you get the idea.

In Zurich, the study found that badgers and squirrels have seen their respective populations explode in recent years. Unfortunately, the number of wild beavers, foxes and stoats in Zurich was found to be stagnating. 

Berlin, Vienna and Zurich shape the wildlife that live there

The study wrote that the differences between the three cities can be attributed to how each has developed over the years. Among other factors, these include the density and size of housing, weather and how each city has managed its green spaces.

Historical factors were also blamed for the differences. For example, Berlin’s large raccoon population can be attributed to the fact that they were introduced to then-Nazi Germany in the 1930s for their fur, before escaping captivity in the capital during the Second World War.

Report notes a "worrying" decline in hedgehog populations

The most serious news for Zurich was what the report described as a “worrying” decline in the population of hedgehogs. According to their findings, hedgehog numbers in the Swiss city have fallen by 40 percent in the last 25 years.

Interestingly, according to the same study conducted in 2016, the decline in hedgehog populations varies by district (Kreis). They found that the Igel population has fallen fastest in the Alstetten, Milchbuck and Zurichberg districts of the city, while the decline has been much slower in nearby Schwamedingen.

While the study did not go into detail as to why hedgehog populations are falling in Zurich, the species' decline is a Europe-wide phenomenon. Intensive use of land has been blamed for the decline in rural areas, while impermeable garden fencing, a lack of connectivity between green spaces, the development of green spaces into car parks, over-management of gardens and the removal of dead wood and foliage - denying the hedgehogs a refuge - all reduce Igel populations in towns and cities.

Hedgehogs Wanted, declares wildlife association

In concluding their report, StadtWildTiere confirmed that it would be launching a “Hedgehogs Wanted” (Igel gesucht) campaign in Zurich. During the test, set to begin in May 2024, participants are encouraged to tell them when and where they spot hedgehogs, to help them find out why the population is declining so quickly in certain areas.

The organisation is also looking for volunteers to look after 10 tracking tunnels - cardboard tubes that are placed in gardens and green spaces, and fitted with coloured stripes that will help experts track where hedgehogs are going as they pass through. If you want to participate in the project, check out the official website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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