Hedgehog Awareness Week
Not so long ago I was reading an article and stumbled upon a statement which really took me by surprise. I read it again and again as I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It said, “Hedgehogs are as rare as tigers”. Sounds drastic right? Well if you consider the declining numbers of hedgehogs’ year upon year, the analogies such as the one I mentioned are not that extreme, as in fact, hedgehogs are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers and other endangered species are worldwide.
Hedgehogs are found throughout the UK in both rural and urban landscapes, but finding a hedgehog has become more and more difficult over the past decade as the once common garden visitor is now under threat from habitat loss caused by the reduction of hedgerows and the escalation of agricultural landscapes.
The ‘State of Britain’s hedgehogs’ report in 2011 gathered data from surveys dating from 1996-2011 and concluded, at a conservative estimate, that a quarter of the population had been lost in the first decade of this century. The updated report in 2015 analysed data from 2000-2014 and suggested a continuing decline, in both rural and urban areas. Since 2000, rural populations have declined by at least a half whilst urban populations have decreased by up to a third in the same time period.
Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and takes place from the 1st-7th of May. This nationwide event takes place every year aiming to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and the many ways in which we can help. The annual event coincides with the ongoing campaign run by the BHPS and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), ‘Hedgehog Street’ which after 3 years running, has over thirty thousand Hedgehog Champions registered on their website, forming a vibrant and enthusiastic community campaigning for local action for hedgehogs around the country.
This year’s Hedgehog Awareness Week focuses on garden machinery and their impact on the declining number of hedgehogs. Reports of terrible injuries and deaths are harrowing and therefore the BHPS is asking people to check areas carefully before using any machinery as well as producing a sticker to be placed onto machines, asking councils and tool hire companies to get in touch and request the stickers for their products.
Our beloved, prickly critters are in trouble! Hedgehog Awareness Week is a great way for the public to engage with wildlife and address the underlying issues. BHPS Chief Executive, Fay Vass said, “We are asking people to pledge to do at least one positive thing during the week and if possible let us know, send us pictures of the hedgehog hole or home you create, or from the event you organise”. They are also welcoming donations on their just giving page in the hope to raise £2,000 to continue their work. BHPS are a charity with a determined objective to save hedgehogs native to the UK. They give advice to the public about care of hedgehogs, particularly when injured, sick, orphaned or in danger. They also encourage the younger generation to value and respect the natural wildlife and funds research into the behavioural habits of hedgehogs to ascertain the best methods of assisting their survival.
It’s not all doom and gloom. The past year saw some promising actions as the declining status of the hedgehog was acknowledged on a much higher level. In the House of Commons, Tory MP Oliver Colvile argued the case for the hedgehog replacing the lion as Britain’s national symbol, to help conservation efforts. Within this argument, it was also mentioned that Parliament has “probably not discussed hedgehogs since 1566”. A current petition of the residents of the UK, Great Britain and Northern Ireland declares that the government must give the hedgehog better legal protection in order to reverse its decline. Over 31,000 signatures have been taken for the petition, but 100,000 signatures are required for it to be considered for a debate in Parliament. You can sign the petition here – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121264
What can we do to help?
Fortunately, hedgehogs love gardens, and there are around half a million hectares of garden in the UK. So here’s a few things you can do to help hedgehogs:
Make your garden hedgehog accessible – It’s pretty obvious where we stand on the Hedge vs Fence debate as hedges are the ideal nesting spot for our prickly friends, providing ideal shelter, food sources and a practical corridor in which hedgehogs can travel from garden to garden. But for those with a fence, you can still make your garden a hedgehog haven by creating a small hole in your fence to allow hedgehogs to roam with no restrictions.
Providing nesting sites by building or buying a hedgehog home – Log and leaf piles, wilderness areas and purpose-built hedgehog homes make great places for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate.
No slug pellets – Slugs are on the menu for hedgehogs but slug pellets can harm them, so it’s best to let them help you by being nature’s own pest control.
Cover drains – Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but are quite curious, meaning they fall into holes and get stuck, so make sure you cover up any open drains
Plants – Creating a wildlife friendly garden offers heaps of benefits for hedgehogs. We have a range of wildlife friendly hedges that make the ideal habitat for hedgehogs and help you create your dream garden.
Bonfire time – Every year numbers of hedgehogs die or suffer injuries due to bonfire piles not being checked before being lit. To help prevent hedgehogs and other wildlife from suffering, it is advised by the BHPS that you avoid building your bonfire until the day it is going to be lit. This will reduce the chances of hedgehogs taking up residence in the bonfire pile for hibernation
Feeding Station –During cold or dry periods, insects and other food sources become much scarcer in gardens, so hedgehogs will benefit hugely from a shallow dish of water and supplementary feeding. http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/feed-hedgehogs.html
At Best4hedging, we love these cute, spiny mammals and in light of Hedgehog Awareness Week, we will be giving away an RSPB Hogitat, for one lucky winner to put in their garden and make a hedgehog very happy with a wonderful home. To enter, head over to our Facebook page, click on the competition and tell us why you love hedgehogs. The competition closes on the 14th May at 5pm and the winner will be announced on 16th May. You can also get involved on Twitter by tagging @best4hedging and using the hashtag #HedgesForHogs….Good Luck!
Check out our many other hedgehog related blogs here: