Predicting hedgehog mortality risks on British roads using habitat suitability modelling
Road vehicle collisions are likely to be an important contributory factor in the decline of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in Britain. Here, a collaborative roadkill dataset collected from multiple projects across Britain was used to assess when, where and why hedgehog roadkill are more likely to occur. Seasonal trends were assessed using a Generalized Additive Model. There were few casualties in winter—the hibernation season for hedgehogs—with a gradual increase from February that reached a peak in July before declining thereafter. A sequential multi-level Habitat Suitability Modelling (HSM) framework was then used to identify areas showing a high probability of hedgehog roadkill occurrence throughout the entire British road network (∼400,000 km) based on multi-scale environmental determinants. The HSM predicted that grassland and urban habitat coverage were important in predicting the probability of roadkill at a national scale. Probabilities peaked at approximately 50% urban cover at a one km scale and increased linearly with grassland cover (improved and rough grassland). Areas predicted to experience high probabilities of hedgehog roadkill occurrence were therefore in urban and suburban environments, that is, where a mix of urban and grassland habitats occur. These areas covered 9% of the total British road network. In combination with information on the frequency with which particular locations have hedgehog road casualties, the framework can help to identify priority areas for mitigation measures.