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Helping our hedgehogs, which are at risk of extinction

Rachel Shaw, of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, writes about how we can support our hedgehogs:

Hedgehogs are one of our most recognisable and beloved of animals. But when did you last see one?

A startling report published recently by The Mammal Society concluded that a quarter of native mammals now at risk of extinction in the UK includes hedgehogs.

Once common, hedgehogs appear to be in free fall. It is estimated that the number of hedgehogs in the UK has dropped from 30 million in the 1950s to about one million in 2019. It’s now thought that in the past 13 years, they have declined by a further 46%.

A hedgehog in autumn leaves. Image by Tom Marshall.
A hedgehog in autumn leaves. Image by Tom Marshall.

Life is tough for hedgehogs in the urban and rural landscapes that we have created. They run the gauntlet of roads, litter, pesticides, slug pellets, rat traps, ponds with steep sides, cattle grids, strimmers, uncovered drains, bonfires and garden netting.

On top of these death traps, the removal of hedges, copses and trees has deprived them of places to live. And pesticides have reduced the populations of insects, worms and slugs that they eat.

Our own gardens could be wonderful habitats for hedgehogs. If they have bushes and shrubs to provide shelter and safe places to hibernate; if they have areas of long grass instead of manicured lawns or paving; if hedgehogs aren’t fenced in and can move between gardens.

Hedgehogs don’t stick to one or two gardens. Every night they may roam as much as a mile as they travel through gardens in search of food.

Ensuring hedgehogs can pass through your garden is one of the most important things you can do to help. It’s simple to do. Anyone who has a fence around their garden, needs to cut a 13cm square hole in the bottom of the fence. If we all did that, hedgehogs would have more space to explore.

It’s easy to feel powerless at the news headlines about the decline in wildlife but we can all do something to help hedgehogs.

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