Don’t put spike in hedgehog deaths this Bonfire Night
THIS might sound like scare tactics but we might lose all our hedgehogs in our children’s lifetimes.
Yep, those wonderful Tiggywink creatures that have adorned our countryside and gardens throughout our lives are in serious danger of vanishing altogether.
Numbers have plummeted from millions to less than 800,000 in the United Kingdom as a whole. The reasons are mainly down to loss of habitat, new houses, bigger fields without hedgerows and more and more roads. Pesticides didn’t help and bonfires looked like good shelters for the little mammals until November 5.
They are victims of predators and badgers do feed on them, but that natural behaviour is just a minor part of the problem. When badger cull fans tell me that fewer badgers will save our hedgehogs, they are just seeking a new argument for a cull after all the rest have failed.
The Wildlife Trust is opposed to the badger cull and there is evidence that hedgehogs have the very bovine TB that we are trying to get rid of. The problem isn’t badgers and hedgehogs, or cattle – it’s bovine TB.
My most recent encounter with a hedgehog was in my mum’s garden in early summer. The dog was nose-to-nose with this strange beastie in a dark corner under a bush. He was confused and only decided he was tough enough to take it on when he was safely in my arms. “Go on, let me at it! Let me go and I’ll get it!” The hedgehog just tottered off under the bush to safety – hopefully it will have been grubbing around finding lots of lovely bugs and grubs.
I was struggling to remember earlier encounters with live hedgehogs. I remember walking past Worsley Church following a small spiky chap wandering close to the wall, terrified of the traffic.
In those days it was nowhere near as busy as today – the increase in traffic has been a disaster for one of our most beloved mammals.
Small, round and brown hedgehogs were once common in parks and gardens, where bushes and hedges provide the perfect day-time getaway, and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds made excellent feeding grounds at dusk. You can spot if a hedgehog has been around by the black droppings on your lawn.
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.
So Guy Fawkes’ Night becomes even more important for our spiny friends as numbers dwindle. Please check your bonfire for hedgehogs who believe they have found a lovely hibernation spot for winter.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves. To become a member of the trust, go to the website at lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.
Hedgehog numbers have declined