Helping hedgehogs around the UK

Curled hedgehog cpt Amy Lewis

Small, round, brown and famously covered in spines, the hedgehog is one of the most familiar of Britain's wild mammals.

Hedgehogs particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend

Hedgehogs are most commonly spotted in parks and gardens, where bushes and hedges provide the perfect day-time getaway, and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk.  Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, birds eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener's best friend.

The once common hedgehog is now under threat from development and habitat loss caused by loss of hedgerows and intensification of our agricultural landscapes.

Across the UK individual Wildlife Trusts are working hard to restore habitat to benefit species like the hedgehog – and there’s much we can do in our own back yards to help too.

Combined, our gardens provide a space for wildlife larger than all our National Nature Reserves, so by gardening in a wildlife-friendly way, we can help our spiny companions to find a home and  move safely between habitats to find mates and food.  Hedgehogs will also helpfully hoover up any unwanted slugs and snails, so no need to use poisonous slug pellets.

If you have a hedgehog in the garden, you can help it out by putting down a little cat food and leaving a pile of leaves or logs for it to hibernate under.  But don't forget to check your bonfire before you light it!

Brecknock Wildlife Trust

As part of its Mammals on your Doorstep (a Co-operative 5p carrier bag funded project) five schools in Brecknock, part of Powys County, now have hedgehog hibernacula boxes in their school grounds.  The schools learned all about hedgehogs and suggested places to put their hibernacula.  They will be checking this spring to see if any have been used. 

Brecknock Wildlife Trust is encouraging local communities to discover, help and record the wild mammals their towns and surrounding areas enjoy.  Over Winter and Spring half term 2014 it will hold a series of mammal discovery days, showing people how to find and identify tracks and signs of mammals.  It is keen to receive more sightings of hedgehogs and other mammals in Brecknock.

Devon Wildlife Trust

In 2011, Devon Wildlife Trust ran a survey, which saw more than 3,000 records received.  The  results suggested that hedgehogs continue to be found in more than one in three of Devon’s gardens. On the face of it this seemed like good news but in contrast, the owners of one in four gardens had never seen a hedgehog.

People in Devon’s urban areas accounted for nearly eight out of ten of all responses (1,982 people), compared to just two out of ten (559 people) coming from rural areas. The survey showed that hedgehogs seem to be more common in Devon’s towns and cities than in the wider countryside. Five out of 10 of urban respondents saw a hedgehog in 2011, compared with just three out of 10 people in rural areas.  

Overall the survey’s results seem to confirm Devon Wildlife Trust's suspicions and the evidence from studies elsewhere: hedgehogs in Devon are struggling.  While remaining widespread, they are now absent from many localities around the county.  The problem seems especially acute in rural areas.

Children of all ages will love playing, Devon Wildlife Trust's great interactive game Help the Hog, featuring Harry the hedgehog! It’ll teach you what a hedgehog needs to be happy and you will learn how to look after hedgehogs on your patch.  You can also adopt a hedgehog.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust

Shropshire Wildlife Trust set up a hedgehog rescue project when flooding in neighbouring Staffordshire washed away hedgehog foraging grounds. It is rescuing the hedgehogs, feeding them up, then releasing them in places where wild habitat has been improved. One of the placement volunteers arranged to take a couple of the hogs out to primary schools too, to enthuse children into looking out for and recording hedgehogs in their gardens this year. Pupils from Coleham Primary School in Shrewsbury recently popped in to meet Dopey and Houdini (pictured).

The hedgehogs are in varying states of health but all are improving and putting on weight.  A couple don’t currently want to hibernate and are much bolder than the others, in fact human contact causes them no stress whatsoever. With that in mind, Shropshire Wildlife Trust has arranged to visit three local schools to give pupils the opportunity to learn more about the species and think about creating suitable habitat (log piles etc) for them to rest in their gardens. Shropshire Wildlife Trust plans to release the hedgehogs in Shropshire around April-May, when they would usually awaken from hibernation and begin searching out a mate.  For more, visit Shropshire Wildlife Trust's website.


Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Suffolk Wildlife Trust aims to increase people's awareness about issues facing hedgehogs.  According to mammal expert Dr Simone Bullion, hedgehog numbers appear to be at an all time low.

In May 2014, Suffolk Wildlife Trust will launch a county-wide call to action to establish the status of  hedgehogs – both urban and rural.  Staff and volunteers will be encouraging organisations, groups and individuals to submit sightings of hedgehogs and hedgehog signs on an online survey form as part of this wider public awareness drive.  Once collated, this data (which is compatible with the Suffolk biological records office data) will inform Suffolk Wildlife Trust's conservation objectives and target efforts and action on the ground for 2015 and beyond.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust 

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is raising money to work with local schools, planners, developers, local businesses and landowners to raise awarenes of the issues facing hedgehogs.  It will create a distribution map detailing where hedgehogs occur and improve habitats for hedgehogs and other wildlife on school grounds, housing estates and new developments.  Find out more about the aims and objectives of its Help for Hedgehogs Campaign and hedgehog mapping project.