English hedgehogs in a dramatic decline... but we can all help!
At the age of 23, I can honestly say that I have only a handful of memories of ever seeing a hedgehog. When I was around the age of 6 or 7, me and my family became aware of very timid hedgehog visiting our garden in the evenings for a spot of dinner. Sometimes we'd catch a glimpse of it but not always... and after a week or so it stopped visiting.
I vividly remember one evening my mum waking me up and excitedly telling me to go and look at something outside. Confused and sleepily I stepped forwards slowly and could see the hedgehog in the middle of the grass... but it was hunched over and didn't look quite right. For a horrible few moments I worried that it had hurt itself, but on closer inspection we noticed the hedgehog drop something.. it had been holding a baby hedgehog! The mother took a few small steps backwards, allowing me and my mum to really get a closer look of the baby. After a minute or so, the mother stepped forwards, picked up her baby, walked away and we never saw her again.It felt like she had been using our garden as a maternity ward and before leaving wanted us to understand why she had been there. It is a fond memory of mine, especially as I haven't ever seen a hedgehog since.
Were you aware that, devastatingly, English hedgehogs are disappearing about as fast as tigers are worldwide? To be more precise - they are in decline by around 97%. Surprisingly, there is also evidence to suggest that they are suffering just as badly in the wider countryside as they are in more built-up areas.
This shocking revelation comes as a result of a number of different factors: loss of hedgerows and grassland due to urban development, digestion of pesticides and herbicides, and believe it or not but even tidy and sterile gardens have majorly contributed (fences and roads have been pushing hedgehogs into smaller inhabitable areas).
But we can all help to stop this species being lost forever through a number of different ways:
- Place down some tubing in your garden and fill it with dried mealworms, cat food and water (make sure it's large enough for a hedgehog - you don't want it to get stuck!). This provides a fantastic and cost-effective home or pit-stop for passing hedgehogs.
- Leave a messy patch in your garden (compost heaps or log piles work too!) and hedgehogs may use these to create a nest for hibernating or rearing babies - messy patches are beneficial to hedgehogs because they attract insects!
- Hedgehogs won't ever stay in just one garden - they need more space: streets, neighbourhoods and linked gardens. You could help make this possible by cutting one or two small holes in your garden fence (approximately 13cm x 13cm in diameter) to allow them to move easily around from garden-to-garden - then make sure to let all your friends and neighbours know to do the same!
- Hogilo House from Wildlife World For those of you with a bit more cash to spare, why not consider buying a Wildlife World Hedgehog House (£47.99?) or a Wildlife World Hogilo Hedgehog House (£44.99)? Place these in a shady and peaceful area of your garden - and make sure that you've cut a hole in your fence for them to access it! Both of these homes can be bought online or in store from Longacres Bagshot and Shepperton.
- Don't litter! Even something as small as an elastic band can kill a hedgehog.
- Donate to a hedgehog charity and provide funding for research into ways to stop hedgehogs from going into extinction. You could even fundraise for them by holding a charity event!
- Try to avoid treating your lawn with herbicide and putting down slug pellets.. these can kill hedgehogs if digested in large doses.