Save The Hedgehogs! U.K. Creates its First Hedgehog Sanctuary

Hedgehogs are adorable creatures and, with their funny snout-like noses, big beady eyes and strange spiky bodies, it’s hard not to love them.

Growing up in England, I regularly saw them crossing the grass outside my house on summer evenings. They were definitely nocturnal creatures, and we watched as they quickly devoured the bowls of milk and bread that we put out for them in the twilight. They were almost household pets, but not quite, because they never wanted to come indoors.

The Hedgehog Is Dying Out

But something terrible is happening to this adorable creature: the hedgehog is dying out. Where there were an estimated 36 million of the animals snuffling around gardens in the U.K. fifty years ago, there are probably less than a million now. Is the hedgehog about to go extinct?

Not if conservationists in the U.K. can help it.

On March 16, the first-ever large-scale hedgehog sanctuary in the U.K. opened in Solihull, located in the West Midlands area of England. In response to the alarming decline in the hedgehog population, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has created this 90-hectare refuge in the hope that it will serve as model for hedgehog conservation across the whole of Britain.

The refuge includes a nature preserve, a public park, and all the surrounding streets. The goal is to restore hedgehog habitat and complete further scientific studies.

What Is A Hedgehog?

The cute hedgehog is the U.K.’s only spiny mammal. Hedgehogs are small nocturnal mammals that live in Europe, Africa, Asia and New Zealand. They’re called hedgehogs because of their fondness for hiding in bushes, and because of their pig-like snouts.

Spines cover the entirety of their backs; these can vary in color from grey to brown and black. These spines are their primary defense, meaning that when they curl into a ball it’s very difficult to hurt them.

Why The Drastic Decline In Hedgehog Population?

The same story has been repeated so many times: we humans are responsible for the decline in animal populations. In Africa, for example, the biologically diverse grasslands that sustain lions and thousands of other species have declined by 75 percent since 1960. This has led to huge drops in those animal populations.

Or take the monarch butterfly: monarchs have declined by a shocking 90 percent in less than 20 years andmay have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat, an area about the size of Texas, including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds. Humans again.

For the hedgehogs, part of the problem is that hedgehogs need to roam to forage for worms and insects. But the urbanization of the U.K. means hedgehogs are in danger from busy roads, and their hunting grounds are few and far between.

As more and more people pave their gardens and block them up with fences or walls, hedgehogs find it harder to get around and find places to sleep. In addition, widespread use of pesticides and slug pellets in gardens results in less food for the hedgehogs.

All this means one tragic fact: in the U.K. these days you are more likely to see a dead hedgehog lying on the road than a live one.

How The Sanctuary Will Work

In a push to stop this crushing decline, the sanctuary plans to create more than 100 “footprint tunnels” to show where the hedgehogs have been. Not only will they be placed in the wide green spaces, but also in the gardens of willing local people. Hidden cameras are being installed and volunteer “wildlife guardians” will help to protect the spaces.

Simon Thompson, the Trust’s hedgehog officer (a cool job!), explains:

“We’re going to be looking at distribution using the footprint tunnels and abundance via a capture, mark and recapture scheme.

“Hedgehogs will be trapped overnight and in the morning we will give them a unique colour code. We’ll aim to recapture them again, and from the results we will be able to estimate the population numbers in the area.”

Let’s hope they can succeed in reversing the dying-out of the hedgehog.

Photo Credit: thnkstock

127 comments

Susanne F
Susanne F10 months ago

Please never give any milk or milk produkts to hedgehogs!!! That causes severe diarrhoe that often leads to death, because hedgehogs are lactose intolerant!!!

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Only Me
Only Me2 years ago

I have lived in the countryside for a lot of my life and when I was a child hedgehogs were a very common sight. My current garden backs onto a large old orchard and beyond that woodland and pasture - most of which which is not worked commercially (so not many pesticides, etc). We have slow worms, frogs and toads (and plenty of slugs!) and I use no chemicals in the garden, so I think the environment would sustain a hedgehog or two. But I have not seen a hedgehog in four years; their numbers are in noticeable decline.

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Jayne Bojang
Jayne B2 years ago

Love seeing the little guys in my garden. They drink lots of water and love meaty dog food, rope bananas, meal worms, raisins and crushed peanuts.

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Neil A.
Neil A2 years ago

Lovely little animals but liable to fleas, hope this helps!! but they can climb creeper covered walls or they did at least at my last house.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the useful article.

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Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Anne J.
Linda K2 years ago

Well done!

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MJ J.
Past Member 2 years ago

cool

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Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P2 years ago

More of these sanctuaries needed.

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