Elected Britain’s national species in a BBC Wildlife Magazine Poll, there is no doubt that the hedgehog is a much-loved animal found in British gardens and parks. Known for their spiky exterior but somewhat endearing mannerisms, the hedgehog has managed to charm the British population. However, despite their popularity, our garden-friends could be in trouble.
Since the year 2000 alone, the number of hedgehogs found naturally in rural areas has halved, dropping from around 30 million in the 1950s to under a million now. This means that their numbers are dropping at the same rate as tigers, a notion that most of us are unfamiliar with.
But what’s causing this sudden decline? Hard to hear but a necessary wake up call, the answer to this question is us – humans are mainly to blame for the hedgehog ‘crisis’. The increase in new farming methods has meant that hedges are disappearing, the primary habitat of the aptly-named creatures. This has also lead to a change in diet for hedgehogs, as they are forced to look for alternative food sources rather than the usual beetles, slugs and earwigs found in hedges.
Moreover, the increase of traffic volume and busier roads means that around 100,000 hedgehogs a year are run over. Gardens get cemented over for driveways, and the building of new roads has left some groups of hedgehogs cut off and unable to survive.
Put shortly, hedgehogs are rapidly losing not only their homes, but their means to survival. But all hope is not lost – there are many ways in which we can increase their chances of surviving. Hedgehog highways allow hedgehogs to stay connected to each other rather than trapped in one specific garden – by cutting a small hole in your fence, you will enable them to travel about, however this requires not only you but your neighbours to do the same.
Something as simple as fallen leaves, logs and nest piles make the perfect nest for hedgehogs, and you can even purchase kits specifically designed to allow you to turn your garden into a hospital home for the creatures. Another simple idea is not using slug pellets, because hedgehogs can eat up to 100 slugs per night, and if they are poisoned with slug pellets this will also poison the hedgehog!
There are many easy ways that we can rapidly boost the hedgehog population, that make a massive difference to their lives but are not at all inconvenient to ours. One of the main sources of the problem is probably the fact that often the hedgehog crisis goes unnoticed, as we don’t tend to hear about them as much as we do other animals. So now’s the time to get on the hedgehog hype, and help recover Britain’s national species.