The urban population of hedgehogs could be on the rise after years of decline, but rural hogs still need our help
It's just over a year since we reported on the alarming decline of hedgehogs numbers, on walesandborders.com. So 12 months on, it's great to bring happier news.An annual survey conducted by The People’s Trust for Endangered Species' (PTES) has found that sightings of hedgehogs in urban gardens have increased by 20 per cent since 2014.
The report, produced in partnership with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, analysed results from some 600 urban gardens, and concludes: “Hedgehogs continue to face pressures in the rural landscape and from urban development, but monitoring numbers and actions such as Hedgehog Street and public efforts to improve garden habitats and connectivity, might be giving them a chance.”
Much of the improvement is down to the creation of around 4,500 hedgehog highways - holes cut in the bottom of fences by home owners which have over linked 9,000 gardens and green spaces since the introduction of the Hedgehog Street project in 2015.
“Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, so we need more people in those locations to sign up as hedgehog champions," says Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for Hedgehog Street. "Hedgehogs are a generalist species, so the more people can do to help them in their own back garden, the more they will also benefit other wildlife.”
Sadly, the picture is very different in rural areas. Here, hedgehog numbers plummeted by half between 2000 and 2014. The report says the loss of hedgerows and copses to intensive farming is partly to blame, together with pesticides reducing food sources, such as insect larvae and slugs.
PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society plan to work with farmers in a bid to encourage them to make changes that can help protect hedgehogs. Providing wild areas around fields, hedgerows and scrubby areas will increase ideal habitat for the animals to live, nest and feed.
“Farmers play a vital role in producing food, but they’re also well placed to help protect, maintain and enhance our countryside,” Emily adds.
There is some evidence that the decrease in the number of rural hedgehogs is slowing, and country dwellers are urged not to give up hope in assisting what could turn out to be a recovery in both town and country.
For more details of how you can help hedgehogs both in urban gardens and in the country, click here for Dan Butler's feature published last year on walesandborders.com
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