Hedgehogs at Threat
Why we’re losing our hedgehogs and how you can help whilst at university
Since starting at university and moving into student accommodation hedgehogs may have been far from your mind, however there are some small things you can do to help our spiky friends, which take no time at all. Its the little changes that can help protect the eco system and balance nature. Read on to find out more.
A recent report from the Mammal Society lists hedgehogs on Britain’s IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinction. Their numbers have declined by as much as 50% in the last 20 years, facing such continued threats as roads and loss of natural habitat. The question is, how did we get here and what can we do to turn it around?
The wild hedgehog is engrained in our culture, from books to movies, adverts to Christmas cards. They often top the polls for the nation’s favourite mammal and it’s very easy to see why. Britain’s only spiny mammal, hedgehogs are unmistakable. In response to the threat of danger, hedgehogs use the muscles in their back to curl into an impregnable ball of spikes – a fascinating defense against potential predators.
Hedgehogs are secretive creatures. Being small and nocturnal, their busy night-time schedule is generally hidden from our view.
Although at first glance the hedgehog appears shrouded in mystery, we now know a great deal about hedgehogs, thanks to detailed studies into their behaviour and ecology. Unfortunately, these studies show that human actions have major impacts on hedgehogs, at both the individual and population level.
What’s the problem?
The hedgehog was once a common garden sight, but is now declining at an alarming rate in the UK, with declines of up to 50% in rural areas and 30% in urban regions. Threats include loss of natural habitat due to intensive agriculture and urbanisation, with never-ending fields of monocrops and swathes of concrete paving in place of native hedgerows, scrub and woodland.
Habitat loss means less natural food, exacerbated by our habitual use of pesticides and herbicides. In turn, less natural food increases pressure from competing species. We’re chopping up the useable landscape with roads, which creates deadly barriers to movement for hedgehogs, who need to travel up to 2 kilometres in a single night in search of resources.
Hedgehogs also suffer from garden hazards like poisons, strimmers and overly tidy gardens. In addition, upto 335,000 hedgehogs are killed on roads in the UK every year. Thanks to these threats, hedgehogs are now listed as vulnerable to extinction on Britain’s IUCN Red List.
What are universities doing to help hedgehogs?
Thankfully, an army of Hedgehog Heroes is growing across the UK, ready and willing to fight the good fight. One such branch of this army is Hedgehog Friendly Campus (HFC). HFC is an award scheme funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, providing teams of university staff and students with the resources, knowledge and understanding to make a real difference for hedgehogs at your university.
HFC provide free resources and training for teams to survey for hedgehogs on campus.
Teams form a Hedgehog working group, to decide on which actions they want to complete. These might include litter picks, wildflower planting, hedgehog surveys and even learning hedgehog ‘first aid’. HFC provides training, workshops and free resources to support your actions.
The HFC campaign has seen some fantastic activities from universities across the UK, including the installation of hedgehog road crossing signs, hedgehog highway campaign, modules on hedgehog ecology, hedgehog rescue and habitat creation. And for all that great work, universities can receive an award!
How can you get involved whilst at university?
We want every campus to be safe for hedgehogs and HFC need your help.
HFC is recruiting Student Hedgehog Ambassadors from all universities across the UK. Ambassadors can volunteer as much or little time as they like and receive a free starter pack, as well as a CV reference and certificate at the end of the year.
What about helping hedgehogs from your student accommodation?
5 Top tips for helping Hedgehogs in your student accommodation
A big part of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign is educating people about hedgehog-friendly steps they can take in their own lives and whilst living in student accommodation, as well as on campus.
With a few simple changes, your gardens in your off-campus student accommodation can also be havens for hogs.
- Simply having an overgrown section of your garden that is left undisturbed will provide hedgehogs with a space to nest (if your landlord agrees). Adding a leaf and log pile gives them security and encourages their natural food (insects and other invertebrates).
- Please watch out for hedgehogs if you are having a bonfires (and ask your landlord first!). Piles of logs and branches are irresistible to a hedgehog looking for somewhere to hibernate or nest. Only build your bonfire pile only on the day of burning, or move the pile on the day of burning to avoid a tragic end.
- Importantly, hedgehogs also need access into your garden, keeping them off the busy roads and giving them a place to safely rest and feed. If your garden is bordered by a wall or fence, check that there is access in for hedgehogs. A CD case-sized hole in a fence, or a channel dug underneath a gate, will provide this crucial highway for hedgehogs. Again, please always check with your landlord!
- Leaving a shallow dish of fresh water outside will provide a vital lifeline for hedgehogs, who can struggle to find fresh water in urban areas. You’ll also be helping other animals, such as birds!
- Another sure fire way to help hedgehogs in your garden is to provide a supplementary food source. The safest choice for hedgehogs is meaty kitten biscuits!
Read more about creating a hedgehog-friendly garden in the Hedgehog Street Top Tips guide here and please be sure to share it with your landlords.
To join the campaign, go to hedgehogfriendlycampus.co.uk to register and email firstname.lastname@example.org for your free starter pack.
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Guest Post By Jo Wilkinson, Hedgehog Friendly Campus