Thursday, 7 May 2015

Hedgehog awareness week

This week is not only general election week- yay, democracy!- it is also Hedgehog appreciation week! So, I'm going to take some time out of exam revision and frantic writing of lab reports to say just why I love hedgehogs.

"European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)" by Gaudete - Own work - please see Soil-Net project website http://www.soil-net.com/album. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_hedgehog_(Erinaceus_europaeus).jpg#/media/File:European_hedgehog_(Erinaceus_europaeus).jpg
 I spent Saturday mornings as a teenager volunteering at the fantastic Weirfield Wildlife Hospital in Lincoln. Alongside almost every kind of wildlife you can think of, and a fair few domestic species, hedgehogs were one of the biggest groups of patients. Weighing them, syringe feeding the hoglets and trying to stop the adolescents escaping while their cages were cleaned was one of the best jobs going in my opinion. It also opened my eyes to just how many problems our hedgehogs face. Roads, pesticides, habitat loss, disease, bonfires and run ins with garden strimmers all take their toll on our hedgehogs. We still don't really understand how much of a role these individual factors play on hedgehog populations, or even have an accurate way of measuring them, but the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) have commissioned research to better understand this, and hopefully to enable us all to work together to help these wonderful animals.

"Tygertyger hedgehog" by Tygertyger - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tygertyger_hedgehog.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tygertyger_hedgehog.jpg#/media/File:Tygertyger_hedgehog.jpg
Another big problem hedgehogs face is with the fragmentation of habitats. Their range can be as high as 20 hectares, so areas where gardens are surrounded by solid fences or walls really reduce the available habitat for hedgehogs. One easy way you can make your garden hedgehog friendly is by cutting a hole (at least 15cm across) in the bottom of a fence, so hedgehogs can pass through and use your garden as a foraging site. If you do this it's really important to make sure your garden doesn't also have any hedgehog hazards- more information on those and what you can do with them here.

"Igel" by Gibe at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Igel.JPG#/media/File:Igel.JPG
In my opinion, taking the time to help hedgehogs is more than worth it. To me, they are some of the most charismatic wildlife we have in the U.K., as well as a great way to spark enthusiasm for nature and conservation. One summer, when I was little, we found a hedgehog nest in our garden. If you were careful and quiet, you could see the babies wriggling around amongst the lemon balm. I like to think our current resident hedgehog might be a descendant of one of those hoglets. It seemed to like me, anyway, judging by the time it trotted up to me and tried to eat my shoelace (I have no photographic evidence, but I promise, this did actually happen). I can't think of any other wild mammal we have such a close relationship too. And that is why I love hedgehogs.

"Keqs young european hedgehog1" by Lars Karlsson (Keqs) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keqs_young_european_hedgehog1.jpg#/media/File:Keqs_young_european_hedgehog1.jpg

Do you love hedgehogs? Have any ever tried to eat your clothes? Please let me know in the comments!

Alexandra xx

There is lots of fantastic information on hedgehogs, the problems they face and what we can do to help on the Hedgehog Street website, run by PTES and BHPS. It's well worth a look!

Somehow, I don't have any photographs of hedgehogs, which gives me a project for the summer. In the meantime, these photos are creative commons ones off Wikipedia. Any problems, please let me know.

2 comments:

  1. I love hedgehogs, they are adorable. We always find them roaming about our garden! Working with them sounds brilliant. Cute post and great raising awareness too, It's very important - everybody loves hedgehogs!

    Josie
    josievictoriaa / fashion, travel and lifestyle

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  2. Having hedgehogs in your garden is great! When I was at home over Easter the hedgehog in our garden was out and about, it was great to see- and amazing how attached you get!

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