Hedgehogs in Your Garden
By Natasha Hannah-Lyons
If you were asked to list iconic British wildlife, I would confidently say that the small, prickly mammal that gently toddles around our gardens after dark would be on most of our lists. This little bug eating carnivore is a firm favourite of many, but it is in need of our help. Hedgehogs have undergone a long historic decline and in 2020 were placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red list as being ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ in Great Britain. I am sure, for many, this will be quite a shocking situation to comprehend, but this little mammal is at risk of being gone from our landscapes; a conservation fail in this modern lifetime!
A report released in February 2022 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society looked at the ‘State of Britain’s Hedgehogs’ and the state of populations in both urban and rural areas. For the first time urban populations were considered ‘stable’, however, these areas also saw the highest number of road mortalities. Rural populations still remain low with a decline in the last two decades of between a third and three quarters nationally! The full report can be found here: https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/state-of-britains-hedgehogs-2022/
Hedgehogs are protected by British law under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to kill or capture them using certain methods. Similar protection exists in Northern Ireland under Schedule 6 & 7 of the Wildlife Order 1985. They are also protected in Britain under the Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996), prohibiting cruelty and mistreatment. They’re listed as a Species of Principle Importance in England under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 Section 41, in Wales under the Environment Act 2016, and in Scotland under the Nature Conservation Act 2004. Similarly, hedgehogs are on the Priority Species List for Northern Ireland.
So, what can we do? Well, lots! Hedgehogs can roam up to 2km in a single night, but a lot of our modern gardens are not accessible by hedgehogs, so why not install a ‘Hedgehog Highway’ (pictured above)? A simple hole, 13cm x 13cm in a fence, gravel board, gate or wall will do. If your garden connects to others, why not make a highway system to all your neighbouring gardens? You could also build a home for a hedgehog or make a feeding station providing somewhere warm to sleep and a place to leave food suitable for a late night foraging hedgehog. Whilst improving your gardens for hedgehogs take the time to remove the hazards in your garden, such as old loose netting or providing a plank out of a pond in case a thirsty hedgehog falls in!
The ‘Wild About Gardens’ website has a great booklet (button below) on hedgehogs with plans on how to make a hedgehog house and feeding station. Once you have improved your garden for wildlife, why not encourage your neighbours, village or town to do the same. Log on to the ‘Big hedgehog Map’ https://bighedgehogmap.org/ and record the location of your hedgehog highway(s) and any hedgehogs that you may spot visiting your garden!
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