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How to stop the humble hedgehog disappearing from British gardens and countryside forever

The Conversation

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Where have all the hedgehogs gone? shutterstock

Daniel Allen, Keele University

When the humble hedgehog was crowned “Britain’s national species” in a BBC Wildlife Magazine poll and “Britain’s favourite mammal” in a Royal Society of Biology poll, no doubt, sentimentalised memories of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, played a role in swaying public opinion.

Ecologist and author Hugh Warwick explained how:

Beatrix Potter managed to sprinkle some magic over the hedgehog, transforming it into the irresistible companion of our gardens.

But despite their popularity, hedgehogs are now something of a rare sight in British gardens – and are in fact disappearing at the same rate as tigers worldwide. Rural hedgehogs in the UK have halved in number since 2000, while urban hedgehogs have declined by a third. More widely, UK hedgehog numbers have dropped from an estimated 30m in the 1950s to under a million today.

So what’s to blame? We are. Well, the changing lifestyles and tastes of people, to be precise. Farming methods have changed dramatically over recent years – becoming increasingly intensive. This has led to the removal of many hedges, an important habitat for the British hedgehog. It has also had negative implications on their main diet of worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs and millipedes.

The country’s roads are also busier. Hedgehog road deaths are estimated to exceed 100,000 a year in Britain. Road networks also cut through habitats leaving hedgehogs isolated, while our gardens are increasingly becoming more humanised. Lawns have been turned into tarmac for cars, foliage has been torn out, decking added, garden borders peppered with slug pellets, and hedges replaced by impenetrable fences and walls. All of which mean that hedgehogs are not only losing their habitats, but also their chances of survival.

Hedgehog friendly gardens

The plight is such that the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species launched Hedgehog Street in 2011 to encourage people to champion the species and its habitat.

Hedgehog feeding station. British Hedgehog Preservation Society Facebook

At the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2014, designer Tracy Foster made Hedgehog Street a reality, creating a summer garden to demonstrate “how neighbours can work together to help hedgehogs by providing routes through garden boundaries”. Sharing slogans such as “no one garden is enough” and “make a hole, make a difference”, the hedgehog haven won People’s Choice for Best Small Garden and the coveted RHS Gold medal. The first permanent Hedgehog Street garden was unveiled at RHS Harlow Carr, in North Yorkshire in April 2017.


I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

I’m stunned by this article. First of all, I had no idea the previous Canadian government destroyed 100 years of Arctic climate data. Secondly, we joke about Trump’s corruption, greedy business mind and being bought off by the Russians and huge corporations (does he think money is all that there is?), and his utter stupidity when tweeting about climate (“It’s freezing where I am so there cannot be global warming”), but this is real. This is systematic, deliberate climate change denial on behalf of big oil and other huge corporations because…money. 

How are we allowing this? How are people becoming so blindly led, so brainwashed, so indignant and angry at the wrong people, at each other, instead of at those who have the power to destroy anything they want and are doing so. These very people are our downfall – of everyone, planet-wide. They deny science and deny fact to protect profit and greed, at all of our expense and at the expense of our precious living planet. 

Ocean acidification is deadly threat to marine life, finds eight-year study

I briefly researched acidification in a corals essays I wrote last year (for which I got a first class mark); this study looks in-depth at the impacts of acidification on marine life.

Ocean acidification is deadly threat to marine life, finds eight-year study

Black-Light Detects White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and collaborators discovered that long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light directed at the wings of bats with white-nose syndrome (WNS) produced points of distinctive orange-yellow fluorescence. The orange-yellow glow corresponds directly with microscopic skin lesions that define the current “gold standard” for diagnosing WNS.”

Hybridization patterns in two contact zones of grass snakes reveal a new Central European snake species | Scientific Reports

This is amazing news. Natrix natrix -previously thought to be the only grass snake in the UK – has been found to be genetically distinct from what was previously thought to be a variation rather than separate species, the newly named Natrix venaticus. Studies sampled mtDNA from existing skins and specimens and found clear genetic differences between the two, confirming Natrix venaticus as a separate and distinct species. No living snakes were harmed for the study either, which is always good news.

Some marine creatures may be more resilient to harsher ocean conditions than expected –

So I’m writing an essay about drivers of coral reef bleaching, and reading about acidification and its effects on marine mammals that secrete calcium carbonate, and this new research pops up. Interesting immediate adaptation to cope with lower pH levels in marine environments; although I’m not sure how long-term (and effective) an adaptation it might be. Similarly, some coral species and their symbionts are more tolerant of some drivers of bleaching than others. Again, in the short-term that helps those species, but it’s not clear how far beyond their normal thresholds for CO2, irradiance, thermal stress and acidification they can survive. And then there’s coral diseases… We are pushing the limits, changing environments and testing tolerance thresholds for so much of the world’s wildlife, and not in a good way.

Maned wolf | Smithsonian’s National Zoo

More on the maned wolf, my new favourite animal. Genus Chrysostom.