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Did you know? the hedgehog is disappearing faster than tigers

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 July 2017

Yawning hoglet taken by Cheryl

Yawning hoglet taken by Cheryl

Archant

Volunteer Cheryl Hudson is lucky to have hedgehogs breeding in her garden as numbers of this iconic mammal have tumbled over the past century. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright investigates.

We often see TV programmes warning us of the dangers of extinction in faraway countries; pandas, polar bears and elephants. Of course this is a major worry for all of us, we will bear the guilt if species become extinct depriving future generations of beautiful creatures.

But the frightening thing is that extinction is a huge concern much closer to home. One of our favourite creatures, the hedgehog, is disappearing faster than tigers.

Numbers have dropped 30 per cent in the past ten years. We had millions of these mammals in the UK 100 years ago. Now, it is estimated, that there are less than 800,000.

Dozens of our members have contacted The Lancashire Wildlife Trust to ask why they are not seeing Mr and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in their gardens any more.

I remember 30 years ago seeing a shuffling creature wandering up the footpath between the roundabouts at Worsley. It was keeping close to the wall and it stopped and rolled into a protective ball as soon as I got near. This was not a surprising sight in those days, especially close to the safety of churchyards.

When my dog was involved in a stand-off with a hedgehog a few months ago, it was the first one I had seen in a decade, apart from injured youngsters or hoglets at a Hedgehog Hospital on the Fylde. Baby hedgehogs are now generally called hoglets but, over the years they were referred to as kits, pups and piglets.

Their numbers fell substantially as hedgerows were removed from the countryside in the days of intensive agriculture. Now farmers are joining conservationists and planting more hedges so things are improving.

However, the increasing numbers of roads in the region have been a major cause of hedgehog casualties. You are far more likely to see a dead hedgehog than a living one.

A hedgehog will cover a wide area to search for food. If you have one in your garden, this mammal will be travelling through at least five more back yards on the hunt for bugs and grubs. Nowadays housing estates are criss-crossed by roads which will cut across those hedgehog paths.

Having dogs and rabbits as pets tends to make us block holes in fences but The Wildlife Trust wants people to leave holes in fences and hedges, creating Hedgehog Highways, pathways between gardens.

Leave log and leaf piles as shelters for hedgehogs in autumn, or you can buy a purpose-built homes where they can hibernate. If you are lucky enough to have a hedgehog ensure any deep holes or gullies are covered up so they can’t get stuck.

A hedgehog in your garden is great news if you are a gardener. They really love to munch on big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs. Those rotten woodpiles will be great larders for hedgehogs with earwigs, centipedes and wood lice. In fact the mild winter will mean a lot more food around for the few hedgehogs we have left.

AMAZING SIGHT

Wildlife Trust volunteer Cheryl Hudson had an amazing Nature Moment in her own back garden when she heard some rustling from the base of a tree. ‘I was absolutely amazed to see three baby hedgehogs,’ she said. ‘I got a picture of this little one which was yawning. I felt like a proud mother! It proved to me that my wildlife corridor was working and benefiting our local wildlife. Last year “my” hedgehog had five babies. I recorded them squeaking.’

Cheryl is one of a vast army of people who have volunteered at Brockholes. In fact the Preston nature reserve recently celebrated its 1,000th volunteer.

Volunteers are involved in a wide range of activities from hedge-laying, habitat creation, tree planting and wildlife recording to working in the shop on the floating visitor centre.

It is a great way to see wildlife, make friends and get fit. If you are interested in finding where you can help locally, go to The Lancashire Wildlife Trust website at www.lancswt.org.uk.

TRUST IN US

To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.

The Trust is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, including seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.

To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

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