Page last updated at 06:28 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 07:28 UK
Householders can save hedgehogs

Some researchers believe we could lose the hedgehog by 2025

A hedgehog charity in south Wales is urging people to take small steps in their garden to help stop the animal's decline.

Simply turning a small patch of garden to wilderness will make a huge difference, according to Keith Jones of the Hedgehog Helpline, which is based in Newbridge and Cardiff.

"One metre square, two metres if possible, put a pile of logs and let it go wild", he said.

Keith Jones at the Hedgehog Hospital in Pontllanfraith

"Let the nettles grow, let a bit of brambles or weeds grow. It will be attractive for hedgehogs and they will put you on their route. They may even set up home there, and a mother can have some babies. It all helps the hedgehogs."

The aim is to recreate the habitat that they have lost which has contributed to their severe decline.

Decking and bark chippings have become number one enemy of our beloved spiky friend.

If twelve adjacent gardens each cultivated a wild patch, and allowed spaces within fencing for the hedgehog to pass, a corridor is created for the hedgehog to live in.

According to official figures, we are in danger of losing the hedgehog and confining it to the pages of Beatrix Potter's stories such as Mrs Tiggy Winkle.

The most recent data from the Mammals Trust UK (MTUK) has revealed that the number of hedgehogs in England and Wales declined by over 20% between 2001 and 2004.

If they were to continue to decline at that rate, hedgehogs could be extinct by 2025.

But the battle can be fought to save the hedgehog by individual householders, and Keith Jones feels that urban dwellers in particular are crucial to their survival.

"Modern farming methods and the erosion of our hedgerows means that it is hard for the hedgehog to survive in rural areas," he said.

"But if we all help, they can thrive again in our towns and cities. The motor car is not the main source of their demise - it's their habitat."

This hedgehog was seen in the grounds of BBC Wales in Cardiff in spring 2009

As well as creating small wild patches and ensuring there are gaps in garden fencing, Keith advises people to make sure their drains are covered, and to lift garden netting so that it starts above ground level, thus preventing a hedgehog getting entangled.

Another simple step if you have a garden pond, is to put a few stones in so that a hedgehog can climb out.

Although the hedgehog is a good swimmer, they can struggle to get out and become too exhausted to swim.

If you come across an injured or ill hedgehog, the advice is not to leave it but to call the RSPCA or take it to your local vet.

In south Wales the Hedgehog Helpline offers a local rescue service, and the Hedgehog Preservation Trust has volunteers throughout the UK.

The cold dry winter and continued dry spell has meant that this year the hedgehog population is even more under stress.

Many didn't make it through the hibernation period, as reflected by the line of empty cages in the Hedgehog Hospital in Pontllanfraith.

"We only have four in care at the moment, whereas we'd usually have thirty to fifty", said Keith.

"People assume that if there are no squashed hedgehogs on the road, they've learnt to cross the road. It means no such thing. It just means there aren't many left.

"It would be a tragedy to lose the hedgehog. We're in control of our environment, certainly as far as the hedgehog is concerned, and it's up to us to do something about it."

Small steps can save the hedgehog
24 May 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
'Tidy gardens' cause hogs' demise
28 Aug 07 |  Science & Environment
Hedgehog numbers 'in nose-dive'
30 Jun 05 |  Science & Environment



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