The Decline in UK Hedgehogs

How We Can Help

Hedgehogs have been voted the most loved British wildlife species by the British public, yet surprisingly their population is in serious decline. Hedgehogs live both rurally and in urban areas across the British Isles, although not present on some of the Scottish Islands. It is believed, according to a report by ‘The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs’ that from the year 2000 the rural British Hedgehog population has declined by at least half. A study by ‘The People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ found that the UK’s urban population is believed to have declined by a third since 2000. 

At one point in time, the Hedgehog was once a common sight in British gardens and rural countryside but sadly, it is declining at quite a speedy rate.

Causes of the Decline

So, what is the cause of this decline? It is believed that populations are in decline because of the loss of habitat, including hedgerows. Green grassland, agricultural land use and urban spaces have all overtaken the Hedgehogs natural habitat. Higher traffic densities are also believed to be a problem with many individuals being killed on our country or urban roads. The reduction in food resources, which is primarily invertebrates, is also a major issue. 

There are a number of ways the British public can help.

  • Create a Hedgehog friendly garden and increase wildlife habitability.
    Whether a garden is urban or rural, it is important to encourage all walks of wildlife to boost a healthy ecosystem. This includes invertebrate species which are an essential food source for our Hedgehog population. In urban areas, create hedgehog pathways between neighbours gardens if possible.
  • Ditch the use of harmful garden chemicals or pesticides.
    Chemicals and pesticides can be detrimental to our ecosystems by harming our invertebrate species. This includes the use of slug pellets. Hedgehogs consume worms, slugs and many invertebrates as their main proteins source. Using harmful substances will only enter delicate food chains.
  • Provide nesting areas and habitat.
    Where suitable, leave hedgerows and provide plenty flora species. Allow leaf piles and wood piles to form a habitat, as these can be essential for providing nesting materials and encouraging invertebrates. Even build your own hedgehog home to urge nesting behaviours.
  • Ensure bonfires are checked prior to lighting.
    On the run up to bonfire night, many communities/individuals will begin building and stacking a bonfire days if not weeks before the night. This stack of wood and burnable materials provides a perfect nest and habitat for a Hedgehog. It is advisable to check the bonfire thoroughly prior to lighting, or preferably don’t build a bonfire until the day of lighting.
  • Underweight, sick or injured Hedgehogs.
    If a Hedgehog is appearing quite underweight, injured or sick, then contact a local wildlife rescue centre to provide advice on its proper care, or if necessary admit the individual to a hospital and rehabilitation centre.  

These are only some of the ways we can help conserve our much loved Hedgehog population. By providing or encouraging more natural habitat across rural and urban UK should allow a population increase, not only in Hedgehogs, but also our invertebrate species.

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