Help our hedgehogs on road to recovery
SOMETIMES it takes a disaster for people to start sitting up and taking notice – this could explain why there has been a sudden surge in interest about hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs tend to get a lot of publicity in early November when they can be found hibernating under bonfires, but their decline is not down to one day a year.
In the 1950s hedgehog numbers were estimated to be around 30 million in the United Kingdom, this number has plummeted and in 1995 the population was thought to be less than 1.5 million.
I have spoken to experts who say that the decline has continued and numbers are likely to be less than a million now – what a sad state of affairs.
People are now beginning to show a great deal of concern about our only spiked mammal. On radio shows and out and about I am constantly asked about hedgehogs by residents of the north west.
Many creatures – and plants – suffered during the 50s and 60s as hedgerows were ripped up to be replaced by huge arable fields. It was not only destroying a great place for the hedgehogs but also for the food they eat – bugs, grubs, slugs and worms.
Many of these beautiful mammals decided to head into our gardens where our hedges provided the perfect habitat, but their tendency to wander large distances looking for food often meant crossing roads that have become busier and busier. Eventually they found themselves trapped inside road networks and either starved to death or were killed by traffic.
Much hedgehog information and advice can be gleaned from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and they have come up with brilliant plans to create ‘hedgehog streets’ in neighbourhoods where the animals live. This involves neighbours providing entrances and exits to their gardens so that the creatures can roam. They can wander between 10 gardens looking for food and if they have a clear path they will stay around and eat some of the pests that annoy gardeners.
This is a good way of ensuring that hedgehogs hang around in your garden. Also leaving out a little pet food to supplement their diets can help, particularly in winter when the ground is hard and food is scarce.
It’s a much better idea than getting pygmy hedgehogs as pets, which I have been told is the latest fashion. Why would you want a spiky pet while native creatures are running wild in your garden?
We must care for our hedgehogs to help them on the steady road to recovery. Keep an eye out for hedgehogs in trouble.
If they are out during the day and particularly if they are young, they might just need a helping hand.
Check cattle grids for trapped hedgehogs and if we get a warm period in winter make sure you put out some meaty food for your spiky friends.
Raising awareness about the state of our wildlife is vitally important, it’s just a pity that they have had years of death and misery before we actually noticed.
To become a member of the Wildlife Trust go to www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.