A wildlife trust has launched a campaign to save prickly creatures which are disappearing at a faster rate than tigers ahead of National Hedgehog Awareness Week.
Hedgehogs are in trouble, Surrey Wildlife Trust has warned, and the trust is calling on all animal lovers to keep an eye out for them and report their findings on a new ‘Hedgehog Hotspots’ web page.
The project is being launched to coincide with National Hedgehog Awareness Week 2017, which runs from April 30 to May 6, and is backed by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Hedgehogs used to be a familiar and well-loved visitor to British gardens, but their numbers have fallen by nearly a third since 2002 – they’re disappearing faster than tigers are worldwide. In 1950 the UK population was roughly 30 million, but fewer than one million hedgehogs are left and numbers continue to decline.
Pic credit: Gillian Day
“We want to see the declining trend in hedgehogs reversed and to help us understand more about hedgehogs across Surrey, we'd love to know whether people have seen any hedgehogs recently,” said Dawn Fielding, the trust’s wildlife gardening officer.
Hedgehogs were voted as the UK’s national species in 2013 and are a traditional icon of British wildlife.
Hedgehogs leave their mark in the Footprint Tunnel. Pic credit: Surrey Wildlife Trust
The decline of the British hedgehog population can be blamed on declining hedgerow quality, the over-management of parks and gardens, loss of green space to paving/decking and chemical use in gardens and on farmland, which leads to fewer insects for hedgehogs to eat, a Surrey Wildlife Trust spokesperson claimed.
“Most of the hedgehogs in this country now survive in suburban areas as they have been driven out of more rural areas,” Dawn Fielding added.
“But they are still not entirely safe even in our well-manicured back gardens. They can end up as road kill on local roads or be harmed by lawnmowers and bonfires, and they’re increasingly under threat from the effects of climate change, which can potentially alter their hibernation behaviour - so they desperately need our help.”
Here are the Trust’s five top tips to help hedgehogs in Surrey:
• Cut a small hole in the base of your garden fence to provide a corridor for hedgehogs to move between gardens. They can travel up to 2km a night!
• Reduce garden pesticides and ditch the slug pellets - let hedgehogs be your pest control.
• Keep a messy garden, leaving hedgehogs piles of leaves, long grass and logs to hide/feed in.
• Check compost heaps and bonfires for hedgehogs before digging in a fork or setting alight.
• Cover drains or deep holes and provide escape routes from ponds to prevent hedgehogs from getting stuck or drowning.
To report a sighting of a hedgehog anywhere in Surrey, visit the trust’s ‘Hedgehog Hotspots’ web page and enter the postcode of the sighting, whether the animal was dead or alive, how many hedgehogs were there and what they were doing.