Your back garden might seem like a serene spot for insects and wildlife to spend time – but that may be far from the truth, according to new research.
At times, the lawn can turn into something more closely resembling Mad Max’s Thunderdome, with creatures like badgers and foxes facing off against each other.
The main impetus for these ferocious clashes is the food that is sometimes left out by humans, in the kind-hearted but naive belief that it might be shared out among a group of woodland friends.
Instead, experts at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Brighton say the open feast attracts predators from across the local area, inevitable resulting in a free-for-all.
And the most unexpectedly vicious aggressor in the melee? The humble hedgehog.
Analysing hundreds of videos recorded by members of the public, the researchers saw lunging, biting and striking out – and in one case, one hedgehog even pushed another into some water.
They were the species most likely to fight among themselves, with 55% of hedgehog-on-hedgehog interactions leading to some form of aggression.
In comparison, badgers – though overall the most dominant predator in the garden – only battered other badgers 7% of the times they met.
One of the most shocking behaviours displayed by rage-fuelled hedgehogs was dubbed ‘barge and roll’ by researchers.
If a snack is on the line, one may charge rhino-like at another, causing the victim to curl up into a spiny protective ball which is then simply shoved away.
In one instance, an unfortunate hedgehog was pushed down a flight of concrete steps, while another landed in water.
When it comes to clashes between different species, domestic cats and foxes make the fiercest opponents.
More than three quarters of interactions between them (77%) ended with some kind of violence – with the victor on most of those occasions being the cat.
Overall, in the 316 instances of animals coming into contact seen on the video, 175 ended in some form of confrontation.
The Wind in the Willows this is not.
Professor Dawn Scott, lead researcher from Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: ‘Food provided by people may help wild animals but may also attract animals together that could compete, injure, or predate each other.’
She added: ‘The consequences of interactions between garden mammals are numerous and can become aggressive between competing species.
‘It could lead to injury or death and increased competition might also reduce access to resources for subordinate species or individuals.
‘Our study is the first to quantify interactions between urban mammal communities in this way and to identify hierarchical relationships between wild and domestic mammals in urban gardens.’
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