On 28 February, The Melbreak Communities were delighted to welcome Hugh Warwick author of ‘A Prickly Affair’ and spokesperson for The British Hedgehog Society, to deliver a talk on hedgehogs, entitled ‘Why did the hedgehog cross the road?’
Photo: Guest speaker, Hugh Warwick. Photo courtesy of Hugh Warwick
The talk was fascinating, and Hugh kept the audience captivated with personal anecdotes of his encounters with hedgehogs and the various campaigns he has been involved in such as Hedgehog Street, where the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society work alongside farmers, land managers, ecologists and more to raise awareness and establish practical solutions to help support hedgehogs such as creating hedgehog highways.
Sadly hedgehogs; like much of our wildlife; have shown a steep decline in recent years. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022’report suggests that hedgehog numbers have plummeted by 50% in rural areas by 30% since 2000. In urban areas numbers had gone down by 30% but there are signs the population is stabilising. There are now fewer than one million hedgehogs in the UK, which sounds a lot but isn’t; considering that in the 1950s, there were 36 million. The main cause of this is the loss of suitable habitat, habitat degradation and habitat fragmentation requiring, you guessed it – hedgehogs having to cross the road or many roads in search of food.
Photo above: Hedgehog leaving a feeding station, captured on infra- red camera in Lorton. Tanya St. Pierre
Surprisingly hedgehogs can travel up to 3km or more in a night, and an area of 1 km2 of good habitat is required to support healthy populations. Good habitat includes networks of thick hedgerows with leaf litter and dead wood, wilder grasses areas and field margins, scrub and undisturbed thickets such as bramble to forage and shelter.
Hedgehog highways are 13 cm access holes in garden fences or walls which aim to connect gardens and green spaces allowing safe travel for hedgehogs through our towns and villages avoiding roads and traffic. You can make a garden as hedgehog friendly as you want but if they can’t access it, its academic.
Besides creating access, Hugh reminded us that there are lots of other things that can be done to help hedgehogs, these include:
- Check before mowing or strimming by running a rake through long grass
- Leave wilder undisturbed areas or corners in your garden
- Plant a hedge and allow it to flower and fruit
- Make ponds and cattle grids safe by providing exit ramps
- Provide additional food and water – Tesco’s Kitten Kibble is ideal apparently!
- Grow native plants
- Avoid using chemicals
- Provide nesting places – logs piles, compost heaps, bramble patches, leaves, twigs and sticks all help provide habitat and food
- Check bonfires before lighting them
Regularly voted the UK’s favourite mammal, you may be lucky enough to see hedgehogs out and about on their travels after dark, we have had sightings reported by residents within the Melbreak Communities on i-Naturalist. Hopefully if we all take steps to help hedgehogs and work together to provide more habitat and safe highways, these endearing creatures that have captured the nations heart, will frequent our gardens and snuffles along our hedgerows for years to come.
Follow the links below for some helpful information about what you else you can do:
You can find more information about Hugh Warwick, and details of how to purchase his books, on his webpage https://www.hughwarwick.com/
(If you buy one of Hugh’s publications, and you send him an stamped addressed envelope he will send you a compliments slip with his signature so your book will be ‘signed by the author’. See his webpage for his address.)
Watch this space – we aim to hold further workshops and events to help support hedgehogs as part of The Melbreak Communities.