Hedgehog numbers are declining. In 1995, the UK hedgehog population was estimated at 1.5 million, but according to a national survey carried out in 2001, there is evidence they may have since declined by up to 50% in some areas.
When wildlife starts going into decline like this, we often think it's beyond our control, and we turn to experts and specialists for solutions to the problem. In the case of hedgehogs, the source of the problem (and the solution) is much nearer to home.
They may be one of the UK's favourite wild animals, but the closer hedgehogs get to us, the more we hurt them. It's not intentional of course, but the damage we do to hedgehogs can often be easily avoided.
Every year, thousands of hedgehog casualties arrive at wildlife hospitals up and down the UK to be treated for accidents and injuries. In a typical year Folly Wildlife Rescue, in Kent, takes in around 400 sick hedgehogs. Listed below are the top seven reasons they end up on their doorstep...
Nylon garden netting can be a real hazard to hedgehogs and other animals, especially when it's left in a pile on the ground. They can easily become entangled and this can restrict the blood flow or cause lacerations to the skin.
Solution - Keep netting at a safe height from the ground so that hedgehogs can walk under it. When it's finished with, store it away safely.
Piles of wood and vegetation set aside for burning make a tempting habitat for hedgehogs. Again they move inside looking for food and cover. When the pile is lit they become trapped and burned alive.
Solution - Re-build piles before lighting
Hedgehogs like the warmth, cover and food found inside compost heaps. This leaves them open to injuries from garden forks when gardeners turn over the compost.
Solution - turn compost over slowly and carefully. It's easier on your back and safer for any animals inside.
Many hedgehogs receive horrendous cuts and amputations as a result of mowers and strimmers each year.
Solution - simply walk through the area before cutting.
If there's a pond, swimming pool, drain, trench or hole to fall down, your local hedgehog will find it. Many hedgehogs drown or become exhausted trying to escape from steep sided pools and holes.
Solution - leave an escape ramp, such as a plank of wood or some chicken wire, so the animal can walk out, and put covers over deep drain holes.
It's that old favourite again, the slug pellet. Hedgehogs can't get enough of them, and many gardeners seem only too happy to accommodate their appetite by putting down billions of them every year. Then there's all the weedkillers and other poisons sprayed and poured over the ground.
Solution - save yourself a fortune and go organic.
And the number one reason... you guessed it...
The only defense our hedgehogs have is to roll up into a ball. Unfortunately this offers no protection from their biggest enemy - the motor car. We're all familiar with the sight of a dead hedgehog in the middle of the road. Sadly many of these hedgehogs are mothers with young back at the nest waiting to be fed.
Solution - slow down. More about avoiding accidents with wildlife on roads here >