Wildlife charities are urging people across the UK to help arrest the decline in numbers of one of our most loved garden animals.
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is teaming up with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for the first ever national Hedgehog Housing Census in an attempt to combat the ongoing decline in native hedgehog population numbers.
The Hedgehog Street survey, which runs until October 31, aims to answer questions about how the spiky creatures live, and in particular, their use of artificial hedgehog houses, which, until now, have not been studied, despite thousands of people having one in their garden.
The information will be gathered via an online survey, and the data then analysed by scientists at the University of Reading. The results will help the Hedgehog Street team find out what the best type of hedgehog house is and how they can be used to support the conservation of these animals.
Since its creation in 2011, Hedgehog Street has over 44,000 volunteers, known as Hedgehog Champions, pledging to help save the nation’s favourite mammal by making small steps in their own gardens.
This new census will answer questions such as: is your hedgehog house used? Is it used for summer nesting, as a maternity nest, or for hibernation? What materials is it made from? Is it homemade or shop bought? Where is it located? What’s the best design?
The loss of hedgerows and intensive farming in rural areas, along with tidy, fenced-in gardens in urban and suburban locations, are just some of the threats contributing to the demise of Britain’s native hedgehog. It is estimated that populations have declined by up to a third in urban areas, and by at least half in rural areas since 2000.
The census will be sent to all Hedgehog Champions, but the Hedgehog Street team is very keen to hear from anyone who has a hedgehog house in their garden and isn’t already a Champion, so simply visit Hedgehog Street to take part.
Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street explains: “Through the Hedgehog Housing Census we will investigate the nation’s hedgehog homes, to find out what works best for hedgehogs, which in turn will help our ongoing conservation work.
“There are lots of ways people can help hedgehogs, but in addition to making a small hole in your fence, providing the correct food and drink, and keeping areas of your garden untidy, if you are lucky enough to see hedgehogs in your garden, you can further help these endangered creatures by having the right accommodation on hand ready for them when they need it.”
The data collected will be analysed over the winter months, with the results due to be published in spring 2018.
To take part in the Hedgehog Housing Census, register as a Hedgehog Champion or for more information about hedgehogs, visit: www.hedgehogstreet.org/housingcensus