The hedgehog population in the UK has dropped by a whopping 25% just in the past ten years. A campaign called Hedgehog Street is underway to encourage people to “be a hedgehog champion today” and “make a few simple changes” in their gardens including “make a log pile” and (something that sounds almost too easy to do) “leave a mess.”
The Guardian reports that the spread of suburbia has been a major factor in the hedgehog decline according to research by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species:
The landscape, suburban and rural, has become massively fragmented. In the countryside intensive farming, improved pastures and poorly managed hedges have all contributed to the isolation of hedgehogs in what are known as “rural refugia,” or more commonly, towns and villages. In many cases the hedgehogs also have a jailor, in the form of badgers, the presence of which prevents their spread out into the wilds.
That has all been going on for some time now, but what is new is what has changed in the last sanctuary for the hedgehog, suburbia. It was perfect. A mosaic of different habitats all interconnected with sufficient green space to allow movement that for the most part kept them away from the busier roads. But the pressures on space have reduced the green routes; the numbers of cars have increased enormously; front gardens have been given over to car ports; rear gardens have become extensions, either literally, or with decking and patios; easily maintained tidiness has become the goal and, finally, fences have got concrete footings.
All this ruins the capacity of suburbia to help the hedgehog.
The tidiness of the modern garden with its asphalt patios and decks — instead of good old dirt — is contributing to what some people report is a “complete absence of hedgehogs.” It’s something to be alarmed about and a reminder that our efforts to make our suburban gardens and yards more suited to our tastes and comforts may not bode so well for the wildlife who are just under the hedge and whose ancestors were there first.
As a Care2.com Green Living post by Ronnie Citron-Fink notes, hedgehogs (which are not native to the US) can help to teach us a lot about nature, and, indeed, the earth and our place in it.
British scientist and author, Hugh Warwick has been studying hedgehogs for 25 years. He suggests that since the connection humans have towards nature has been documented to make us happier and healthier we need to get closer to nature to heal the planet. The more intimate that connection, the better. We don’t generally live in the woods, scavenge for food or avert advances from predators. So, we need to find ways of falling in love with the natural world, as he feels it is the only way we will be truly moved enough to alter our behavior and stop its destruction.
Go to Hedgehog Street to find out more about how to help hedgehogs.
Photo by Peter G Trimming.