By Harriet Trickett
Spiky, small and prickly critters are the focus during Hedgehog Awareness Week, which this year runs until May 11.
The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report estimates over half of rural hedgehogs could disappear for good unless something is done.
One of the problems facing hedgehogs is fencing preventing them from travelling through linked-up gardens they need to visit for survival.
Charlotte Owen of Sussex Wildlife Trust said: “Gardens provide an important refuge but they have become less hedgehog-friendly, with many paved over or so securely fenced that hedgehogs can’t access them.
“Hedgehogs need our help and there are some simple actions you can take to make sure our spiny companions can find a home and move safely through the landscape in search of food and a mate.”
East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) treats more than 600 hedgehogs every year.
Stacey Fletcher, welfare and conservation co-ordinator at WRAS, said: “This figure would almost give the appearance that their numbers haven’t declined more than 65 per cent over the past 20 years, but unfortunately many of the hedgehogs admitted are the result of anthropogenic pressures such as habitat loss, road collisions and food loss.
“There are a range of ways hedgehogs can be helped out in the wild, including simply leaving gaps in the fence for them to use as highways.”
These highways can be made by cutting a 13cm x 13cm hole in fences.
Hedgehog Street was set up in 2011 by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species to provide information on how to help a ‘hog pass freely through gardens.
Fay Vass, chief executive of the BHPS, said the campaign gets the public engaged with getting the streets more hedgehog-friendly, as part of the problem hedgehogs face is the fragmentation of land.
There are currently more than 60,000 Hedgehog Champions.
Ms Owen said other ways to make gardens hedgehog-friendly include: providing nest sites of stacked logs and leaves, planting hedges, avoiding pesticides, setting up a feeding station of cat or dog food but never bread or milk, making water safer with a ramp of wood wrapped in chicken wire and covering drains, checking for hidden hedgehogs before lighting bonfires and taking care when strimming grass.
More advice on how to help hedgehogs is available at: www.hedgehogstreet.org