Hedge­hogs on the edge

A new re­port shows hedge­hog num­bers have plum­meted by half in the Bri­tish coun­try­side

Country Smallholding - - In Focus -

At least half the pop­u­la­tion of our na­tive hedge­hogs has been lost from the Bri­tish coun­try­side over the last two decades, warn two wildlife char­i­ties.

The State of Bri­tain’s Hedge­hogs 2018, pub­lished jointly by the Bri­tish Hedge­hog Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety (BHPS) and Peo­ple’s Trust for En­dan­gered Species (PTES), is the only com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the sta­tus of Bri­tain’s hedge­hogs. This new re­port shows that hedge­hogs in ru­ral ar­eas are in se­vere de­cline, with their num­bers plum­met­ing by half since the Mil­len­nium.

“There are many rea­sons hedge­hogs are in trou­ble,” ex­plains Emily Wilson, Hedge­hog Of­fi­cer for Hedge­hog Street, a pub­lic ac­tion cam­paign run by PTES and BHPS. “The in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of agri­cul­ture through the loss of hedgerows and per­ma­nent grass­lands, in­creased field sizes, and the use of pes­ti­cides which re­duce the amount of prey avail­able, are all as­so­ci­ated with the plunge in num­bers of hedge­hogs in ru­ral ar­eas.”

Vi­tal role

How­ever, with ap­prox­i­mately 70% of land in the UK man­aged by farm­ers, BHPS and PTES are plan­ning to en­gage with the farm­ing com­mu­nity to help pro­tect this iconic crea­ture.

“Farm­ers play a vi­tal role in pro­duc­ing food, but they’re also well placed to help pro­tect, main­tain and en­hance our coun­try­side,” con­tin­ues Wilson. “The Gov­ern­ment re­cently re­it­er­ated plans to re­form the EU Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy to re­ward landown­ers for de­liv­er­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits. Many farm­ers al­ready have a sus­tain­able ap­proach to agri­cul­ture, and we think there’s a great op­por­tu­nity to work more widely with them to stem the alarm­ing de­cline of our coun­try hedge­hogs.”

Whilst The State of Bri­tain’s Hedge­hogs re­port high­lights a wor­ry­ing de­cline in our coun­try­side, it shows a more pos­i­tive out­look for hedge­hogs in our towns and cities: al­though the species has de­clined by a third in ur­ban ar­eas since 2000, the rate of de­cline is slow­ing. Hedge­hogs are not dis­ap­pear­ing from ur­ban green spa­ces as rapidly as they were 15 years ago, and might even be re­turn­ing. Where they are found, num­bers too, ap­pear to be grow­ing in some places.

It is ex­cit­ing to think that the com­bined ef­forts of thou­sands of vol­un­teers who have joined Hedge­hog Street and pledged to make their gar­dens more hedge­hogfriendly, may be mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. PTES and BHPS launched Hedge­hog Street in 2011 to in­spire the Bri­tish pub­lic to help hedge­hogs and other wildlife that de­pend on their gar­dens and, so far, over 47,000 Hedge­hog Cham­pi­ons have signed up to help.

Emily said: “Ur­ban and sub­ur­ban ar­eas are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for hedge­hogs, so we need more peo­ple in those lo­ca­tions to sign up as Hedge­hog Cham­pi­ons. Hedge­hogs are a gen­er­al­ist species, so the more peo­ple can do to help them in their own back gar­den, the more they will also ben­e­fit other wildlife.”

There are many rea­sons hedge­hogs are in trou­ble

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