Cambridge Hedgehogs raises awareness of the plight of our spiky friends
It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week and a Cambridge group is explaining how we can help these fast-disappearing creatures, while aiming to create a new ‘hogspital’.
Blighted by human activity, a loss of food and disruption to their habitat, our hedgehogs are suffering.
It is believed that there were around 30 million hedgehogs in the 1950s. Today, there are just one million.
This week (May 5-11) is Hedgehog Awareness Week – organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).
A much-needed week of action, it will highlight what we can all do to protect our spiky friends.
Over at Shepreth Wildlife Park’s hedgehog hospital on Tuesday, a stricken hedgehog was brought in stuck to glue on a rat trap.
It was freed and then taken to a vet for cleaning up. There are simple things we can all do to help.
These include making sure there are CD case-sized gaps in boundary fences and walls to allow easy passage, moving piles of rubbish to a new site before burning them, checking areas carefully before mowing or strimming, and covering drains and deep holes.
Cambridge Hedgehogs is a registered charity run by volunteers, which formed this year.
Grace Dolman, from the organisation, said: “What we really want to push in Cambridge is our campaign, Hedgehogs without Borders, which is based on the national Hedgehog Street campaign to get people to put holes in their fences.
“Hedgehogs can roam up to a mile each night looking for food, and one of the major reasons why their population is in decline is because they can’t get from one garden to another, so their habitat’s quite limited.
“All the latest research shows that actually gardens are where they’re choosing to go, rather than large, rural open fields, so we’ve got a real opportunity in Cambridge to boost our existing population by making these small holes in the bottom of fences.”
With the destruction of hedgerows and the use of pesticides that kill the insects and slugs they eat, many farms are not friendly places for hedgehogs, and roads are dangerous to cross for them, so moving between gardens is important.
Put out clean, fresh water and cat biscuits or hedgehog food, leave areas to grow to provide space for them to forage and avoid slug pellets at all costs, and you’ll have a chance of bringing these delightful nocturnal creatures into your garden.
Cambridge Hedgehogs has been collaborating with Cambridge City Council, which is encouraging as many residents as possible to make their gardens hedgehog-friendly.
People are also asked to report any sightings at bighedgehogmap.org.
The council’s community engagement team is knocking on doors with streets and open spaces volunteers this week, and will be creating hedgehog highways in some areas – as well as helping residents who want to create hedgehog habitats in their gardens.
“In the city we’re delivering 2,000 Hedgehog Society leaflets, to ask people to put holes in their fences and to provide food and water for hedgehogs,” explained Grace.
“Cambridge Hedgehogs is also going to be sending a letter out this week to all the Cambridge colleges asking them to do the same – not necessarily in the colleges themselves, but in all the student residential properties.
“These are small but meaningful changes, which will certainly impact on populations. If you put some water and some food out, you’d be amazed how quickly a hedgehog will arrive.”
The charity is also seeking a site for a new hedgehog hospital.
“We’re in discussions at the moment about a potential site and are waiting to hear back,” said Grace.
“Shepreth is often over-capacity and particularly with the baby season coming up, they’ll be overrun with hedgehogs that have been abandoned.
"We think there’s definitely a need for another hospital, preferably in the city boundaries, or just on the outskirts so that it’s easier for people to bring animals in.
“But at the moment we’re still at the planning phase of that, trying to find a suitable site – so if anybody has a suitable site for us, we’d be very interested in hearing from them.”
Cllr Katie Thornburrow, executive councillor for streets and open spaces, said: “I’m personally going to be doing some leafletting and, through my canvassing work in Cambridge, I know that in some areas there’s been a huge drop in the hedgehog population, especially around the older parts of Cambridge where new housing has been put in.
“The streets and open spaces team have also got volunteers who can help put in the hedgehog doorways.”
Advice on setting up a hedgehog habitat will be offered, weather permitting, on Friday, May 10 at King’s Hedges recreation ground.
To get involved in Hedgehog Awareness Week contact the council at email@example.com.
BHPS is hoping to raise £1,000 during Hedgehog Awareness Week.
To donate to the 2019 #hedgehogweek appeal, go to justgiving.com/campaign/HAW19.
More by this authorAdrian Peel