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HEDGEHOG PROTECTION

Thought to be the UK’s most loved wild animal, it’s hard not to adore this spiky little mammal. But despite its popularity hedgehog numbers are in serious decline. It’s no longer a common sight to see these shy little creatures moving slowly through our gardens.

It’s estimated that there were some 30 million hedgehogs in Britain in the 1950s. By the 1990s, this number had plummeted to 1.5 million. In 2020 the hedgehog was added to the Red List for British  Mammals, listed as a creature at risk of extinction.

Remember

Remember

As an advocate for all British wildlife, we at Protect The Wild  will not sit back and watch as one of our countryside’s most loved animals disappears before our eyes.  There are simple things we can all be doing to ensure a future for wild hedgehogs.

We are determined to campaign and educate the public on the plight of the hedgehog, whilst educating a wider audience on the basic steps we can take to protect future populations.

One big threat facing hedgehogs is bonfires. That’s why we released our hard-hitting animation ‘Remember Remember’ aimed at showing us to how to safely build bonfires and look out for both hedgehogs and wild birds on November 5th.

You can watch our animation here.

Loss of habitat, pesticides – and garden fencing.

So why, exactly, are we losing our favourite mammal?

Hedgehogs have lost the habitat they need to live in, the food they need to survive, and the ability to move around their territories.
Hedgehogs need open spaces, hedgerows and forest edges for both shelter and food.

Toxic pesticides — used widely all over the country on both farmland and in gardens — harm Hedgehogs and reduce their food supply. In the UK, the use of pesticides continues to rise. By 2016, 73 million hectares of land were being sprayed, often multiple times.

In urban areas the building of new developments, the loss of greenery in gardens, and impenetrable fencing all have big effects on a hedgehog’s ability to move around and find enough food to survive.

Towns and cities are essential for hedgehogs

If we live in a built-up area, we might wonder what we can do to help our hedgehogs. But urban spaces are essential for the mammal’s survival. According to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES):

“The matrix of gardens and green spaces in towns and cities can support the highest densities of hedgehogs and may act as a refuge from agricultural practices and high predator density.”

There are a number of steps that we can take, especially we have a garden.

1. Stop using pesticides in our gardens.

In April 2022 it became illegal to buy or use metaldehyde slug pellets in the UK. Opinions differ on how much this poison has affected hedgehogs, but they have been found dead with high levels of metaldehyde in their bodies, There are concerns that the poison also affects a hedgehog’s reproductive ability. Hedgehogs eat masses of slugs, but if we really can’t bear to have slugs in our gardens there are a number of effective, natural ways that we can repel them.

Other pesticides also affect hedgehogs. Queen Mary’s Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign says:
“Herbicides…reduce worm population which is not only the main food source [for] hedgies, but also badgers. A decline in the badger’s food source could indirectly cause an increase in predation rate on hedgehogs.”

So if we care about hedgehogs, let’s ditch not just toxic slug pellets but as many pesticides as possible and look for less damaging, more organic ways to manage our gardens

 

2. Make a hedgehog highway

For small animals, hedgehogs have surprisingly large territories and need to move between our gardens. Hedgehog highways ensure that they can move freely without coming across barriers. Anyone can help create a ‘hedgehog highway’ simply by making a hedgehog-sized hole in a garden fence or making sure they can get under garden gates. Any holes need to be at least 13cm X 13cm.

BHPS and PTES are asking us all to log our hedgehog holes on the Big Hedgehog Map.

 
 

3. Make your garden hedgehog-friendly

Too many of our gardens are over-tidy or perfectly manicured, lacking much in the way of cover and vegetation. Simple ways we can make our garden more hedgehog-friendly is to create a ‘wild corner’ where we let some dense undergrowth thrive, leave grass of varying lengths when we mow, and not pick up all fallen leaves. Anything really to give hedgehogs more habitat where they can look for food, hide and nest. If we have the space we could even create a loose log pile which will offer a hedgehog a great place to shelter.

4. Make a hedgehog home

Like everyone else, hedgehogs need homes to live in. The simplest way to provide a home for hedgehog is to leave a box in our garden to provide a safe place for a hedgehog to nest and shelter. We can build our own or buy one from a garden centre or a charity like the RSPB, which also gives tips on where to position your hedgehog’s new home.

 

5. Provide hedgehogs with food and water

Hedgehogs are going hungry and we can help. First though, please don’t feed hedgehogs bread and milk because they can’t digest it. Instead, give them complete cat food or meaty dog and cat biscuits. We can also build a feeding station for safe feeding. Hedgehogs need water too, If we have a garden pond hedgehogs may use it, but to make it safe for them we need to provide shallow areas and sloped routes out. Although Hedgehogs are good swimmers, they do need an easy way to get out of the water again!

6. Ask our school or university to become a hedgehog-friendly campus

The BHPS has funded a programme, offering free support to schools, universities and colleges to make their campuses more hedgehog-friendly. This year it wants more primary schools to get involved.

BHPS says:

“You’ll be completing activities that protect hedgehogs from hazards, enhance their habitat and raise awareness about hedgehog decline. You’ll get access to loads of free classroom activities, campaigning resources and advice. You’ll also get free mammal survey resources so you can see what animals are visiting.”

 

7. Contact your local council

We need to come together to help hedgehogs. We can work with local groups, and to make a real difference we can persuade our councils to make areas more hedgehog-friendly by encouraging them to rewild, plant hedges, and install hedgehog highways.