Don’t put spike in hedge­hog deaths this Bon­fire Night

Rossendale Free Press - - Wildlife -

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

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