Besides the ones made from milk chocolate curls and disguised as a cake, I bet many UK residents can’t remember the last time they saw two hedgehogs. It has become more noticeable in recent years, elusive sightings, making the very idea of this creature as a woodland party cake – a fairytale.
This was confirmed last week in an annual survey by the RSPB exploring what is in U.K. gardens: foxes, badgers and slow worms all recorded and varying in rarity. Of the gardens in the 4 counties surveyed (139,000 gardens surveyed), one quarter or 34,000+ did not record a hedgehog sighting. City/town hedgehog numbers might be down due to the fact that there is more congestion on roads with a higher population, there is less space for gardens in new housing (overpopulation) and less land in general because of urbanisation.
What about the other type of hedgehog? The countryside kind are compatible with the city kind in numbers decrease, it seems. According to Hedgehog Street ‘Hedgehogs now appear to be declining in the UK … at around 5% a year, both in rural and urban habitats.’ The hedgehog is an omnivore so they can eat a variety of foods: beetles, earthworms and small dead mammals as well as plants, making them a garden staple. However, in the countryside hedgerows that act as biological corridors and an abundant food souce for hedgehogs, are less present. This is due to agricultural expansion and alternative fencing meaning less predation for ‘hogs. As expected there is then limited movement and shelter for hedgehogs overall, another threat.
It’s easier to help city hedgehogs as this is where most of the UK population lives and Hedgehog Street have a list of foods to put out for the spikey guys including pet food and peanuts along with advice on how to keep this away from cats. Those lucky enough to live in the countryside can also help. Putting out food in the same way and driving carefully on country roads at night, when hedgehogs are most active. Thinking about ways to reduce agricultural dependence individually could be a long term thought as well.
It would be lovely to see these spikey woodland creatures back on the population increase and conservation is at the heart of this.
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