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Where Can I See a Hedgehog?
29th September 2023
When was the last time you saw a hedgehog? These are indeed troubled times for our prickly friends. During my lifetime, I’ve seen a slow steady decline in hedgehog sightings. An evening dog walk was always accompanied by a hog or two trundling along the track but no more.
A morning commute along an autumn road was a sad sight, flattened hedgehogs on every other road. A testament to a successful breeding season but also to careless or uncaring driving. Nowadays, a flat hedgehog is a rare event and questions the state of the surviving population.
I remember writing an article for Hertfordshire Life some forty years ago now, speculating that hedgehogs would evolve to ‘run’ at the sight of car headlights rather than curl up, their traditional defence. I hope they have evolved this skill but the general lack of numbers in gardens and paths suggests numbers are down. Dramatically!
These nocturnal, noisy, prickly, flea ridden creatures are universally loved. As well as this, they are also very adaptable to human environments and quickly adopt artificial houses, and greedily eat up any meaty morsels on offer. So, the demise of the hedgehog is even more unfathomable.
Part of the problem is habitat fragmentation, this could be physical barriers such as walls, fences, and busy roads. Other obstacles are access to food, water and cover. While hedgehogs appear to have a static, ambling nature they are in fact active explorers. A happy healthy hedgehog will cover two or more miles a night while foraging and ideally have several sleeping quarters. While young hedgehogs seeking new territories and or mates, can travel much further. A healthy population of hedgehogs need 1) the ability to roam and move habitat, 2) access to food in all weather conditions, 3) water and 4) safe, warm, dry quarters in which to hibernate.
Between my own garden and my neighbours, we have plenty of access for hedgehogs to move freely. I feed hedgehogs throughout the active year, and we encourage more people up and down the street to join in. I am fortunate to be able to see hedgehogs every summer night and find them frequently sleeping in the houses I maintain for them.
I opened this blog with a question because nowadays I’m often asked, ‘where can I see a hedgehog?’ in the same tone as ‘where can I see a lion?’. Often, I get a surprised look when I answer, ‘the best place is in your own garden’. It’s been such a bad time for hedgehogs, many people no longer think of them as garden wildlife, and more of a rarity. We can change this.
October is a critical time for hedgehogs as families break apart and start independent living. Young ones need to find new territories and every hedgehog needs to pack on the pounds before hibernation. Think hedgehog, think access, think food, think water, and think how lovely it would be to find hedgehogs as common as they once were.