Call on residents to help give hedgehogs a home

Tuesday 11th October 2016

Hedgehogs are in declineHedgehogs are in decline. Pic Tom Marshall

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to boost hedgehog numbers in the county. We are asking residents to become ‘Hedgehog Heroes’; by sending sightings of hedgehogs, along with donating funds to its Hedgehog Appeal. The Trust believes this will help them to learn more about the local hedgehog population.

Thanks to National Lottery players the appeal will also recruit a group of ‘citizen scientists’ to help record and monitor local hedgehog populations using hedgehog footprint tunnels. Supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s new initiative, Nature Counts, has already gathered over 250 hedgehog sightings.  

Worryingly, the early results indicate that Sheffield’s hedgehogs are following national declines, with almost 13% of sightings being road casualties. Nearly 10% of reporters also note a recent disappearance of this once common species from their local area. Hedgehogs are under threat from development and habitat loss caused by the reduction of hedgerows, intensification of agricultural landscapes and fragmentation of gardens. In just the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30%, and there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK.

The campaign is to be officially launched at a talk at Sheffield Hallam University by renowned wildlife expert Hugh Warwick, an ecologist and writer who has dedicated his professional life to supporting one of Britain’s most familiar wild mammals. Nationwide there are far fewer hedgehogs than there were, even since the turn of the century. This decline needs to be addressed. Hugh believes one of the best ways to increase hedgehog numbers is to reconnect our gardens, making them more accessible to this much loved animal.

He said: “Just making a small difference to the way we manage our gardens can make a huge difference to the chances of hauling hedgehogs back from the brink. Just a small hole, the size of a CD case in the fence or wall you share with your neighbour is enough. Then on to their other neighbour and all the way along the street.”

As well as Hugh’s talk, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust will be kicking off its appeal with a special themed Hedgehog Week during October half term - including a hedgehog footprint survey workshop and family events - which will educate and inspire people to champion South Yorkshire’s hedgehog population.

We are also giving people the opportunity to buy their own Wildscapes hedgehog box, made from sustainable Peak District timber, to give hedgehogs a safe place for hibernation to help boost their numbers.

Cathy Slater, Head of Development at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said: “The surveys that have been carried out previously have found that less people see hedgehogs in the Sheffield area compared with years ago when hedgehog sightings were common. “We therefore want to raise funds to take practical steps to help hedgehogs to thrive and to help protect them in hedgehog hotspots. There is a lot of work to be done and we need the community to come together to help save this wonderful animal.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Few people realise that every lottery ticket has the potential to save the UK’s landscapes, countryside and creature. Imagine if future generations don’t have the chance to enjoy the sight of hedgehogs because we didn’t do enough to save them now. The Nature Counts project is a great way for local communities to get involved and help to save one of our familiar wild mammals.”

The Hedgehog Appeal will officially launch on Thursday 27th October at Hugh’s talk. To make a donation visit wildsheffield.com/hedgehogappeal

For more information and to join Hugh Warwick’s talk and other Hedgehog Week events, visit wildsheffield.com/hedgehog-week or call 0114 2634335

Hedgehogs – key statistics

• There are 14 different species of hedgehog around the world. The UK’s hedgehog – the European hedgehog – is found across Western Europe and Scandinavia.

• On average hedgehogs live for 2-5 years in the wild, but some have lived up to 10

• An adult hedgehog has up to 7,000 spines and a small, hidden tail.

• Hedgehogs eat a variety of insects, molluscs and other invertebrates

• Adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km per night over a range up to 20 hectares

• During the breeding season amorous hedgehogs can be seen and heard circling each other with snorts and grunts

• Young are usually born from May onwards in litters of up to five. The young leave the nest after around four weeks.

• Baby hedgehogs (or hoglets) are born with their spines sheathed beneath their skin which then emerge a few hours after birth.

• Hedgehogs must feed intensively and be in great condition before hibernating if they are to have enough reserves to last the winter.

• Hedgehogs are in trouble... Over the last 50 years we've seen declines in two-thirds of the UK's plant and animal species, including many if our once common garden species.

• Hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30 per cent in just over 10 years and now there are thought to be fewer than 1 million left in the UK.

• They are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide.