The Plight and Preservation of Britain's Hedgehogs: A Call to Action

The hedgehog holds a uniquely cherished place in amongst the rich tapestry of British wildlife. These small, nocturnal mammals, known for rolling up in their distinctive spiky balls, have captivated the hearts of nature enthusiasts across the UK. Hedgehogs are primarily active during the night, this is when they are most likely to be spotted outside of their hibernation period, which typically lasts from November to April. These solitary creatures are known for their remarkable nightly journeys, often covering up to two kilometres in search of food, mates, or suitable nesting areas. Their diet mainly consists of insects, worms, and small invertebrates, making them a natural ally in pest control. However, beneath their endearing exterior lies a story of struggle and the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Recent years have witnessed a worrying decline in hedgehog populations across the UK. Studies, including the comprehensive Wildlife Trust survey, reveal a sharp decrease from an estimated 1.5 million in 1995 to under half a million today. This decline is attributed to several factors, including habitat loss due to urban expansion and intensive farming, increasing road traffic, and the broader impacts of climate change.
The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report sheds light on the differing fortunes of urban and rural hedgehog populations. While rural numbers continue to dwindle, urban hedgehogs show signs of stability, possibly even recovery. This trend underscores the critical role urban gardens and green spaces play in providing refuge and resources for these animals.
How Can We Help?
There are several ways individuals can contribute to hedgehog conservation:
Creating Safe Passages: By cutting small holes in garden fences, people can create 'hedgehog highways', enabling safer movement across urban landscapes.
Building Hedgehog Homes: Constructing a hedgehog-friendly habitat in gardens can provide much-needed shelter. Instructions for building such homes are readily available, including resources like video guides from the National History Museum.
Garden Diversity: Encouraging a range of habitats in gardens, such as ponds, log piles, and varied plant life, can attract natural hedgehog food sources. Even simple measures like allowing a section of the garden to grow wild can create an ecosystem beneficial for hedgehog prey.
Safety Measures: Ensuring that garden ponds have easy exit points is vital in preventing hedgehogs from drowning. Regular garden maintenance, such as checking for hedgehogs before mowing or lighting bonfires, can prevent accidental harm. Additionally, it's crucial to stop the use of pesticides and slug pellets in gardens. These chemicals not only poison hedgehogs but also diminish their natural prey, disrupting the delicate ecological balance. Adopting more hedgehog-friendly gardening practices, including the use of natural pest control methods, can significantly contribute to the safety and health of these charming creatures.

Food and Water: Providing a dish of clean water and occasional supplemental food like meat-based pet food or specially formulated hedgehog food can help, especially during times of food scarcity.
The plight of Britain's hedgehogs is not just an ecological concern but also a cultural one. These creatures are an integral part of the country's natural heritage. Their survival hinges on a collective effort that involves awareness, local action, and a commitment to making our gardens and urban spaces more hedgehog-friendly. By taking small but significant steps, we can ensure that these beloved creatures continue to thrive in the British countryside and urban areas alike.
If you find a hedgehog in need of help, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice and help finding a local rescue centre.

Date: 14/12/2023