First Hedgehog conservation area

"Braunbrustigel Stacheln 050725" by BS Thurner Hof - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Braunbrustigel Stacheln 050725” by BS Thurner Hof – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

A Hedgehog conservation area (of 90ha) has been established by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Solihull Metropolitan Council, comprising the WWT’s Elmdon Manor nature reserve and the council’s Elmdon Park.  The project is funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Hedgehog Officer, Simon Thompson, extends an invitation to Solihull’s residents to participate in a large scale citizen-science project to map and monitor hedgehog distribution and abundance across the town.  He said:  “I’m really proud to be working on a project which has its feet so firmly grounded in grass-roots conservation. Local people and businesses have the opportunity to be involved with every level of the project.  Whether getting hands-on with habitat management or borrowing a remote camera to conduct a survey in a back garden, everyone can get involved, ultimately helping to secure a bright future for hedgehogs in their community.

Through engaging the community the project hopes to engage the Hedgehogs too! The project aims to improve the connectivity of this urban environment by ensuring that there are enough small gaps and holes in barriers such as fences that hedgehogs can shuffle and snuffle around without let or hindrance between good feeding areas and nesting sites.

Fay Vass, Chief Executive, British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said:  “We are delighted to be funding such an exciting and important project in Warwickshire that will hopefully benefit many hedgehogs. Simple measures such as ensuring there is a five inch square gap in boundary walls and fences make a massive difference to local hedgehog populations.  There are many ways people can assist this declining species and we hope this project will complement our work to highlight the plight of the hedgehog.”

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said:  “The once common hedgehog is now under threat from development and habitat loss caused by loss of hedgerows and the intensification of our agricultural landscapes.  Across the UK individual Wildlife Trusts are working hard to restore habitat to benefit species like the hedgehog – and there’s much we can do in our own back yards to help.  Combined, our gardens provide a space for wildlife larger than all our National Nature Reserves, so by gardening in a wildlife-friendly way, we can all help our spiny companions to find a home and move safely between habitats to find mates and food.

When did you last see a Hedgehog – it’s been a while for me?  I haven’t seen one in my garden for a few years and yet they used to be fairly regular visitors.  And now I think about it, I don’t see nearly as many of them squashed on the road as I used to.

In the 1950s there were an estimated 30 million Hedgehogs in the UK whereas they were down to 1.5 million by 1995. The decline in the 1990s was thought to be about 40%, judged by falling numbers of road kills.  That is some decline and is likely to be caused by a combination of increased Badgers numbers (as they take the odd Hedgehog for sure), increased road traffic (as they squidge some Hedgehogs for sure), reduction in quality of the farmed landscape and possibly a decline in the quality of urban environments from the point of view of Hedgehogs.  It will be interesting to see whether thi9s project can engage enough people and enough Hedgehogs to make a difference.

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20 Replies to “First Hedgehog conservation area”

  1. I don’t doubt that hedgehogs have genuinely declined but I wonder if the reduced road kill numbers might also reflect an evolved change in behaviour on roads to make the less vulnerable to being squashed? Probably not but its an interesting thought that any that trundled straight across the road rather than rolling into a ball in the face of oncoming traffic might have a selective advantage in the modern traffic heavy environment. There was a recent study that showed some evidence of American Cliff Swallows evolving shorter wings as an adaptation to road traffic.

  2. Unfortunately I feel that the quality of our urban environments must have a significant impact on hedgehog numbers – our obsession with tidy, enclosed gardens severely restricts hedgehogs’ natural territories. Luckily I had a number of hedgehogs in my garden last year, but only because I have purposely left a gap in the fence for them to enter/exit. However the majority of surrounding gardens are completely fenced off.

    1. Emma – thank you. Sounds like your actions are planned to be replicated in this project. I hope it works.

  3. Radio 4 Today: Prince Harry to leave the army and do ‘conservation work’ in Africa.
    I suppose hedgehogs are not as glamorous as African wildlife but aren’t there just as many challenges here in Britain: hedgehogs, Scottish wildcats, farmland birds, …. hen harriers …oops, probably a step too far!

    1. It’s so much the way of the British leadership to see problems everywhere but here.

  4. It’s not just badgers actually killing hedgehogs – although they definitely do that will affect numbers but also displacement. In a similar way when badgers were culled an increase in foxes was noted. Badgers may kill the odd fox (more likely fox cub) however the affect on foxes would, I think have been more due to competition for territory.

    So badger free or low badger zones might benefit bio diversity. These might have been created by the presence of large predators like bears and wolves just as tree free zones would be created by large herbivores.

    1. giles – some truth in that. Of course if badgers go up and foxes go down then for many species it may be swings and roundabouts to some extent. Trouble is, this way of thinking leads some to kill everything!

  5. We decided to try and encourage hedgehogs back to our orchard when we first moved here eleven years ago. Apart from a lack of tradition birds we noticed over the first two years that there were no hedgehogs at all. We decided to leave areas within the orchard wild whilst putting up feed and nest boxes for birds. Slowly it’s worked and we now have our own small sanctuary of sorts. However, conservation is rarely that simple. Our first Hedgehogs were spotted post the initial badger culls, which are close by, and whilst this may well be a coincidence on our ground I’ve started to notice one or two hedgehogs returning elsewhere in our locality.

    1. That is an incredibly fast turn around if it has anything to do with the badger cull

  6. For what it’s worth: I have seen one hedgehog in my untidy, wooded and deer-fenced garden in the last eight years. I have seen two badgers in the vicinity over the same time, and only three foxes. Judging by the several dozen molehills on my “lawn”, there are plenty of earthworms. A vet of my aquaintance has not found a hedgehog in any badger he has eaten.

    It’s a mystery

  7. Last hedgehog late October last year, lying on side in graveyard broad daylight, soaking wet, like a teenager after a party. Warmed him up and he went to spend winter with local hedgehog rescue as he was very underweight. Lost resident hedgehogs after 3 very snowy long winters in a row.

    Vet’s round here far too well paid to eat badger, Filbert, which is clearly a loss to science.

  8. We’ve had hedgehogs in the garden on and off. Never had a badger in the garden and only recently after being here 18 years have I seen a fox. No question in my mind that hedgehogs have declined but much harder to pin down the reason why, and suspect it is a combination of pressures including widespread use of metaldehyde, general simplification of the farmed and suburban landscape, interaction with domestic animals and of course traffic.

  9. John Stone is closest to the mark on this. I quite literally groan when I see badgers linked to decline in hedgehogs – in my humble opinion that is utter rubbish. These two species happily co-exist. Badgers prefer to eat earthworms and other juicy ground dwelling insects but can be opportunistic feeders when it comes to other food – if on their feeding trips they come across a leveret they will probably eat it, likewise eggs, small chicks and hedgehogs but studies have shown that on the whole they don’t go out thinking ‘…fed up with worms, think I’ll go find a hedgehog tonight’. If the number of remaining hedgehogs is as low as estimates suggest, I expect most badgers will rarely find one – and as they have very poor eyesight they are certainly not looking for them.
    Both hedgehogs and badgers primarily feed on such things as worms, ground insects, and slugs – apart from worms, most ground insects and slugs have been poisoned out of agricultural land. I think the decline in their numbers has to be a combination of zero food, eating poisoned food, getting sprayed with pesticides, loss of and poor hedgerow management, being killed on the roads, and loss of access to suburban/urban garden habitat. Climate change must also be impacting on them, too many very young hedgehogs in autumn – why? Warmer winters interrupting hibernation and thereby causing death. Long dry spells when their food gets very scarce and then long wet periods – do they drown in floods? Hedgehogs may be declining due to fragmentation of their habitat – I don’t know how far they travel to find a mate or indeed whether they would know where to go to find the next hedgehog.
    Sounds to me as though the next reintroduction programme is knocking on the door. Call me a cynic but I can see no good reason to reintroduce lynx, beavers, wolves etc when we are failing miserably to look after the little wildlife we have left.

    1. imo these things invariably get political and the truth of the matter gets distorted, to say there is no relation between the species is as silly as saying the decline in hedgehogs is solely down to badgers.

  10. I dug hog tunnels under our (large) garden border fences when we moved in 2012 and within days (nights) two hedgehogs had started using them and started to “court” in our garden.
    So I provided them a hog home and hibernaculum.

    No young were produced in 2012 and in the summer of 2013 both our adult hogs were eaten by the neighbours’ foxes… (not badgers!) the evidence left on the neighbours lawn (and the noise) made it an open and shut case I’m afraid.

    The story gets happier though… late last summer (2014) we had another prickly wanderer use our tunnel. Now just to avoid those blessed renards…

  11. The very short trailcam videoclip below shows our one eyed female hog using our hog highway and hibernaculum (before she was turned inside out by fantastic, and a meesy visitor too.

    Please open up your garden borders if you’re lucky enough to have borders. A couple of gaps in gravel boards or a little trowel work and a lack of concrete borders in the neighbourhood will really help get these lovely unique animals bounce back perhaps?

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