The UK’s housing crisis is often high on the news agenda, but this August, a more rustic type of accommodation, home to the UK’s smaller, spikier residents, is taking the spotlight. Today, 15 August 2017, the first ever national Hedgehog Housing Census has been launched by Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign set up by wildlife charities the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), to help combat the ongoing decline in native hedgehog population numbers. This survey is in partnership with the University of Reading and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
Between now and the 31st October 2017, the Hedgehog Housing Census will dig a little deeper into the world of hedgehogs, and aims to answer several questions about how they live and in particular, their use of artificial hedgehog houses, which, until now, have not been studied, despite thousands of people having one in their garden. The information will be gathered via an online survey, and the data then analysed by scientists at the University of Reading. The results will help the Hedgehog Street team find out what the best type of hedgehog house is and how they can be used to support the conservation of these animals, enabling wildlife enthusiasts across the UK to further help their spiky garden residents.
Since its creation in 2011, Hedgehog Street has over 44,000 volunteers, known as Hedgehog Champions, pledging to help save the nation’s favourite mammal by making small steps in their own gardens. This new census will answer questions such as: is your hedgehog house used? Is it used for summer nesting, as a maternity nest, or for hibernation? What materials is it made from? Is it homemade or shop bought? Where is it located? What’s the best design? The census will be sent to all Hedgehog Champions, but the Hedgehog Street team is very keen to hear from anyone who has a hedgehog house in their garden and isn’t already a Champion, so simply visit www.hedgehogstreet.org/housingcensus to take part.
Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street explains: “We know thousands of people across the UK have hedgehog houses in their gardens, but what we don’t know is whether they actually benefit hedgehogs. No one has conducted this type of research before, so our results will help inform current advice on how best to use a hedgehog house. Through the Hedgehog Housing Census we will investigate the nation’s hedgehog homes, to find out what works best for hedgehogs, which in turn will help our ongoing conservation work.”
The loss of hedgerows and intensive farming in rural areas, along with tidy, fenced-in gardens in urban and suburban locations, are just some of the threats contributing to the demise of Britain’s native hedgehog. It is estimated that populations have declined by up to a third in urban areas, and by at least half in rural areas since 2000, according to the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015 report, which was published by PTES and BHPS.
Abigail Gazzard, Postgraduate Researcher for the University of Reading explains: “Hedgehogs are one of the UK’s most popular wildlife species, yet their populations are in decline. Consequently, there is the need to identify which factors positively or negatively affect hedgehog populations so that we can help to reverse this decline. In urban areas, local residents are in a prime position to help us achieve this. We first need to understand why hedgehogs appear to use some gardens and not others, so that we can provide evidence-based guidance on what householders can do to help this iconic species. This questionnaire survey will be the first to investigate how successful hedgehog houses might be in helping to provide sites for resting, breeding and hibernating, and is one of a series of collaborative projects between BHPS, PTES and the University of Reading to help gather such evidence.”
Emily concludes: “There are lots of ways people can help hedgehogs, but in addition to making a small hole in your fence, providing the correct food and drink, and keeping areas of your garden untidy, if you are lucky enough to see hedgehogs in your garden, you can further help these endangered creatures by having the right accommodation on hand ready for them when they need it.”
The data collected will be analysed over the winter months, with the results due to be published in spring 2018.
To take part in the Hedgehog Housing Census, register as a Hedgehog Champion or for more information about hedgehogs, visit: www.hedgehogstreet.org/housingcensus
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Notes to Editors
Available for interview
• Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer, Hedgehog Street
• Fay Vass, CEO, BHPS
• Hugh Warwick, Ecologist and Author, BHPS
About Hedgehog Street
• Wildlife charities BHPS and PTES launched Hedgehog Street in June 2011 to encourage hedgehog conservation action at a local community or neighbourhood level. Over 43,000 volunteer “Hedgehog Champions” up and down the country have registered to help to date and the campaign is ongoing, but we still need your help to make a difference.
• The charities’ Hedgehog Street garden won Gold at the 2014 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and People’s Choice Award in the summer garden category.
• Visit www.hedgehogstreet.org for more information.
• PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands and wood pasture and parkland.
• Visit www.ptes.org for more information, or follow PTES on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ptes) and Twitter (@PTES).
• BHPS is a UK charity founded in 1982 dedicated to helping & protecting hedgehogs native to the UK. They run a helpline offering advice on caring for & encouraging hedgehogs in the wild and in gardens. They aim to educate the public on how best to help hedgehogs and fund research into the behavioural habits of hedgehogs to ascertain the best methods of assisting their survival.
• Visit www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for more information, or follow BHPS on Facebook (www.facebook.com/hedgehogsociety) or Twitter (@hedgehogsociety)
About the University of Reading
• The University of Reading is rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world (THE-QS World Rankings 2009) and is one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities.
• Standards of teaching are excellent – the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2009. 87% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.
• University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience. www.1994group.ac.uk
• More information at www.reading.ac.uk
About Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
• Warwickshire Wildlife Trust have helped develop this survey with the aim of using the results to understand in greater detail about hedgehog houses and their conservation benefits in the Warwickshire area.
• Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WKWT) is the leading local environmental charity which works for people and wildlife in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. The Trust looks after 65 reserves, and is a voluntary membership organisation supported by more than 23,000 members and 1000 volunteers.
• WKWT was established in 1970 and promotes a better natural environment for local wildlife and local people as part of their aim to create a living landscape in the West Midlands, where wildlife and local people can live and thrive together.
• For more information see www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.
• The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015 report followed the first comprehensive review of the status of hedgehogs nationally in 2011. Since this first report, several ongoing surveys, by PTES and others, have shown a continuing population decline. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015, publicised at a special UK summit on hedgehogs, paints a stark picture: since 2000, records of the species have declined by half in rural areas and by a third in urban ones.
• An independent study (The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs) commissioned by PTES and BHPS from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in September 2010 established clear scientific evidence of the decline in hedgehog populations across the UK. In 2013, PTES also published a long-term trend analysis based on their Living with Mammals and Mammals on Roads surveys which showed that hedgehog populations have plummeted by over a third in the last ten years.
• The reasons for the decline in UK hedgehog numbers are complex, but are thought to be associated with the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands; the intensification of agriculture and larger field sizes; and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available. Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, but the move towards tidy, sterile gardens isolated from one another by impermeable boundaries has also contributed to their demise.
• A range of academic research projects, funded by PTES and BHPS, also aim to further scientific understanding about the causes for the decline in hedgehog numbers and most importantly what can be done to reverse this threat to this iconic species.
• The hedgehog was voted as Britain’s National Species in a 2013 BBC Wildlife poll and Britain’s Favourite Mammal in the 2016 Royal Society of Biology poll.