November 21st will be The Day of the Hedgehog. Hosted in Telford, this event will celebrate the conservation efforts taking place across the UK to preserve this iconic mammal. But why do Hedgehogs need protecting and what can you do to help? Read on to find out.
According to Hedgehog Street, the organisation behind The Day of the Hedgehog, Hedgehog numbers are falling roughly five per cent per year in the UK. To put this figure into perspective, this is the same rate of decline as the tiger - one of the most high-profile endangered animals on the planet. There are no accurate figures for Hedgehog numbers in the UK, but it's thought there may be around one million of these mammals left, down from a possible high of 36 million just 60 years ago.
Why the decline?
So, why is the Hedgehog population falling so dramatically? There is no definite answer and there is still a considerable degree of uncertainty surrounding the species' decline. It's likely that a number of factors are making it difficult for the animals to survive.
Habitat loss will almost certainly have had some impact on Hedgehog numbers. In the countryside, almost half of the UK's hedgerows are thought to have been lost over the past 60 years or so, depriving Hedgehogs of an important habitat. Urban Hedgehogs are also affected, with the growing use of impenetrable fencing in gardens making it difficult for the animals to move around and leading to populations becoming fragmented. Gardens themselves have changed too. Overly-tidy gardens, in which vegetation is meticulously cut back, are unsuitable for both Hedgehogs and the invertebrates they eat.
Another problems is roads. Getting hit by cars is a major source of mortality for Hedgehogs in both rural and urban areas. As traffic levels in the UK continue to rise, it's likely that more Hedgehogs are being killed on the road. Another potential factor in the species' decline is the growing use of pesticides, which reduces Hedgehogs' food supply.
Why we should save the Hedgehog and how you can help
Why should we save the Hedgehog? For a start they play an important role in the environment, helping to keep slug and other invertebrate numbers in check. What's more, they are one of the nation's most iconic mammals and have been immortalised in popular culture in numerous forms, be it Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggy-winkle or video game legend Sonic the Hedgehog. It would be a crying shame if they were to disappear from our shores.
You can do several things to try to give the species a helping hand. Making your garden Hedgehog-friendly is the biggest step you can take. One of the best ways to do this is to allow a section of the garden to 'go wild' - essentially you just need to leave it to its own devices and let nature take over. Log piles and compost heaps provide Hedgehogs with both shelter and a source of food, while building a leaf pile in autumn will also provide the creatures with a snug resting place. Ponds will offer Hedgehogs a source of water and food, but just make sure there is a gently-sloping edge to make entry and exit easy.
Leaving out the right sort of food is one of the best ways to attract Hedgehogs to your garden, while you can even invest in a specially-built Hedgehog house. See our full range of Hedgehog products here.
Another way to help the species is to spread the word and get other people involved. One garden alone cannot sustain a Hedgehog - the species needs a network of accessible gardens to survive. By encouraging your neighbours to be Hedgehog-friendly too, you could give your local animals a real boost and play a part in ensuring this lovable creature does not disappear from the UK.
Images from iStock