Neighbourhood watch scheme launched

Hedgehogs, also known as urchins, hedgepigs or furze-pigs, are instantly recognisable and much loved. All the more distressing then that a new report The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs provides definitive evidence that their numbers have declined by at least a quarter in the last 10 years and are still falling – confirming their status as a conservation priority species.

Hedgehog

Photo: Elli Saunders

This alarming figure has compelled wildlife charities the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to join forces to launch Hedgehog Street. This initiative aims to empower whole communities, to take small steps to improve their neighbourhood for hedgehogs in a bid to create a giant patchwork of hog-friendly areas across the British Isles.

Twenty three million households have access to a garden in the UK covering around 433,000 hectares. Reaching 0.1% of these could lead to the creation of a hedgehog refuge larger than the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, but it needs plenty of people power if it is to truly make a difference.

Why are hedgehog numbers plummeting in the UK?

The reasons for the declining hedgehog numbers are complex, but are thought to be associated with loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands; intensification of agriculture and larger field sizes; while the use of pesticide reduces the amount of prey available in the countryside.

Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, but the move towards ever more tidy gardens has also contributed to their demise. Hedgehogs typically travel about a mile each night to gather food and search for a mate. Artificial barriers such as fences and walls prevent movement, and loss of habitat leaves them with nowhere to forage or hibernate.

Hedgehog

Photo: Mark Davis

How can I help?

Take part in Hedgehog Street and generate a groundswell of support in your neighbourhood. Information packs about how to take part are available from the website and these are crammed with ideas on making your own garden and neighbourhood more hedgehog-friendly.

A programme of practical research projects funded by PTES and BHPS will also take place over the next three years, to increase scientific understanding about the causes of our declining hedgehog numbers and most importantly what can be done to reverse the threats to this iconic species. Additional support for Hedgehog Street has been provided by the BBC Wildlife Fund.

Further information

Hedgehog Street

For advice on how to help other wildlife in your garden contact WildCall, Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Information Service