Help our hedge­hogs on road to re­cov­ery

Stockport Times West - - WILDLIFE -

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.lanc­ or call 01772 324129.

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