British hedgehogs. The end. Actually, it nearly IS the end for these little balls of cuteness. I have never actually seen a hedgehog but I know they exist. Same with unicorns. For real. Anyway, hedgehog numbers are in decline here in the UK in a major way. In 2011 The British Preservation Society and The People’s Trust published a report called “The State of British Hedgehogs” where they examined flamingos. I kid. Of course they surveyed the current hedgehog population. The report indicated that in 2011 there had been a 25% decline of hedgehog numbers over the previous 10 years. In 2013 there was a 37% decline.
What is happening and why? Well, there are a couple of reasons and while I am an expert in many things, the plight of hedgehogs is not among them. But this is what I know:
- Busy roads kill loads of hedgehogs every year. They are not exactly fast moving and they are so tiny that they may be easy to spot.
- Hedgehogs and badgers compete for food (worms and insects), it appears as though the badgers are getting to the food source first.
- Hedgehogs need a lot of land to thrive-approximately 90 hectacres. 90 hectacres is the equivalent to a 18 hole golf course plus the land needs to be unfragmented. That kind of land is often a luxury here and developers choose to build houses and shopping malls instead of saving it for these little guys.
There are more reasons to be sure, but have only listed a few. In short, their decline is mostly attributed to the reduction of hedgerows (mixed hedge of shrubs and trees-typically bordering a road or a field) and the intensification of agricultural landscapes.
Hedgehogs are super cute and so tiny that they could easily fit in the palm of your hand. Some people in England will feed them cat food which they heartily eat-but really, they prefer insects like beetles, earthworms and slugs. But if you come across a hedgehog in England (or any where else) be kind to them, whisper a reassuring word and maybe move them out of harm’s way. They might eat what you give them, they will even drink cow’s milk, although it is not good for them-as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Also, hedgehogs have fleas but these fleas are species specific and can’t live on cats, dogs or humans.
If you want to know more there is a downloadable hedgehog guide and booklet as well as some advice sheets on http://www.wildaboutgardens.co.uk. Also, http://www.wildlifetrust.org is pretty informative as well. Check it out. You are welcome.