Reviewed by Ian Carter
Aficionados of the humble, yet hard-pressed, Hedgehog are spoilt for choice these days. Hedgehog books are multiplying, as the animal itself becomes ever more difficult to track down. This mirrors a general trend in natural history writing. We have a rapidly expanding library of information at our finger-tips but, with every passing year, fewer and fewer opportunities to see for ourselves many of the species described. Perhaps, in future, books about our most popular animals will provide some small comfort to those who miss being able to see the real thing. Even today, just 20% of people in Britain claim to having seen a living Hedgehog, something that would have been unthinkable just a few short decades ago.
As we have come to expect from the series, this book is lavishly illustrated, with at least one high quality photo on almost every page. The text is lively, readable and informative and provides a good overview of the species without getting bogged down in too much detail or swamping the reader with complicated facts and figures.
There is plenty of information on how to help Hedgehogs, something that will be relevant to a high proportion of readers given its penchant for suburban gardens. Simple measures such as checking bonfires in the autumn, providing the right kind of food and shelter, and ensuring that fences have access holes so animals can move freely between gardens can make all the difference.
The way we look out for Hedgehogs in our gardens may help determine their long-term fate in Britain. Whether you find that a depressing thought or an uplifting one perhaps depends on your perspective, but it offers some hope for the future, at least for this adaptable species.
There are more comprehensive and academic books available on Hedgehogs but, if you want a good general overview of this enduringly popular animal, this slimline volume fits the bill very well.
Hedgehogs by James Lowen is published by Bloomsbury.