— Wildlife Articles (@wildlife_posts) September 22, 2014
With bonfire night in just 2 days time, many of you will already have engaged in the inevitable festivities of burning effigies and blowing up rockets (you pyromaniacs). But as the 5th approaches, there is one spikey little critter that will not be rejoicing: the hedgehog.
The hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is the only British animal with spines, which it uses to protect itself (and to great effect), rolling itself into a ball that is likely to deter almost all predators. They are not fussy when it comes to eating, dining out on slugs, worms, frogs, and even chopped chick with mashed up dog food (I have served this for many as their evening meal). Yum!
Hedgehogs start hibernating from November to mid March in order to avoid the worst of the bad weather. They will seek out warm areas of leaf litter and other cosy debris as a suitable place to settle down. So when a hedgehog spies the large mound of tinder and kindling set for Guy Fawkes, it thinks it has found somewhere as good as a Premier inn (with or without Lenny Henry, depending on your preferences). This is clearly where the danger lies, as these poor creatures are not aware of the true purposes of their Shangri-La, and every year many hedgehogs are killed or left with horrific injuries when their homes are set on fire. The greatest problem comes from bonfires that are built in advance, as this gives the hedgehogs more opportunity to find them before they are set alight.
For those of you who are making your own bonfires or are responsible for larger ones, please make sure that you check them before you wreck them. It will take only a matter of seconds and you will hopefully be saving the life of what has been voted Britain’s national species.
There is more bad news for the hedgehog as well; unfortunately its numbers are on the decline in Britain. Hedgehogs are being lost here at the same rate as tigers are worldwide. A survey taken in 2011 showed that the population might be dropping by between 1.9-10.7% annually. Between 1950 and 1995 their population has declined from 30 million to around 1.5 million, and since then it was thought to have fallen even further. The reasons behind such a sharp decline are not certain, but there is speculation that it could be due to urbanization of natural land and intensive farming leading to reduced habitat and decreased food due to the high use of pesticides.
However, here are some ways you can help them. Most gardens are kept very tidy by their owners, with well-trimmed lawns and stone pathways. This can make it very difficult for hedgehogs however, so little additions such as a compost heap or a way for the animals to access your garden can make a huge difference.
So this bonfire night please take an extra moment to check for any hidden hedgehogs, so that we can try and preserve this national treasure.
Bbc.co.uk, (2014). BBC Nature – Hedgehog videos, news and facts. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/European_Hedgehog [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
Britishhedgehogs.org.uk, (2014). Bonfires built in advance are hedgehog hotels | BHPS News. [online] Available at: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/?action=viewArticle&articleId=7 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
Britishhedgehogs.org.uk, (2014). Hedgehog Voted Britain’s National Species! | BHPS News. [online] Available at: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/?action=viewArticle&articleId=5 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, (2014). Hedgehogs – Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. [online] Available at: http://ptes.org/campaigns/hedgehogs/ [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
Wembridge, D. (2011). The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs. 1st ed. [ebook] pp.1-4. Available at: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/leaflets/sobh.pdf [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].
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