Posted 8th May 2013
With Hedgehog Awareness Week in full swing we find out from Fay at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society how it all got started and what you can do to help protect the now endangered hedgehog species
How did Hedgehog Awareness Week start?
Hedgehogs are thought to be very common - population estimates in the 1980s were around 30 million - however the population estimate today is less than a million! We need to do all we can to slow this dramatic decline.
What are the most common hedgehog injuries you hear of?
Injuries are usually from dog attacks, strimmers, garden tools, garden fires, etc.
How can we help to prevent these injuries?
If dogs are not trained to leave hedgehogs alone, keep them on a lead after dark when hedgehogs are active. Check areas carefully before strimming, mowing and burning.
What hedgehog hazards should people be most aware of when out in their garden?
I've already mentioned cutting machines, but ponds can be a problem if there's no easy access out. Be as organic as you can, create a log pile for natural shelter and food, keep netting raised up off ground so hedgehogs don't get tangled in it, cover drains and deep holes and ensure all rubbish is properly disposed of.
What should people do if they find an injured hedgehog, is there any care they can give themselves before taking it to a local wildlife centre?
The first thing is to use gardening gloves or a folded up towel to pick the hedgehog up and put it into a high sided box. Bring the box indoors. If there's no sign of blood a wrapped hot water bottle will help, just a nice gentle temperature, ensuring it stays warm, as if allowed to go cold it will do more harm than good. Pop an old towel or t-shirt in the bottom of the box for it to hide under and offer meaty cat or dog food and fresh water. Then, call for more help as soon as possible – our number is 01584 890 801.
Tell us a little more about the work you do?
We are a tiny office (just 3 full-time staff) so we don't go out building habitats - except in our own gardens of course! We do a lot of educational work with schools and adults, we maintain a list of people across the country who take hedgehogs in so that we can offer callers first aid advice and the number of a local carer. We provide information on treating hedgehogs to vets and vet nurses too.
Why is it so important to protect our hedgehogs?
There has been a massive decline (equivalent to that of the worlds tigers)! People love to see hedgehogs in their gardens but sightings are less and less frequent. Hedgehogs are endearing little creatures that do no harm, let's do all we can to help them. Hedgehogs are a very important species. Ecologist Hugh Warwick once said "They are a very important species. We could just look at their diet of macro-invertebrates - things like slugs and snails - to see how great they are to have in the garden. We could also consider that they are yet another piece of the great web of life. Imagine your favourite jumper - it can cope with a few moth holes, but there comes a time when a hole appears in just the wrong place and everything begins to unravel; well, that is like the ecosystem. And we can never know which is the crucial piece of the puzzle".
To try to combat the decline we joined forces with the People's Trust for Endangered Species to launch our Hedgehog Street project, see www.hedgehogstreet.org. Have a look how you can do your bit and become a 'Hedgehog Champion'!
Finally, are there any events or activities running during Hedgehog Awareness Week that you are encouraging people to do?
We are asking people to pledge to do at least one extra thing during the week to help hedgehogs - a pledgehog if you like! See our website www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for more details and ideas.