ONE of the nation’s favourite animals is in desperate need of our help.
Hedgehogs have seen their numbers halve in the last 10 years, and as part of Wild About Gardens Week Warwickshire Wildlife Trust are encouraging Silhillians to do their bit to help the prickly critters.
Observer reporter, Lauren Clarke, donned her wellies and went down to Brueton Park to meet Hedgehog Officer Simon Thompson and find out what he and the Trust are doing in the borough to help their numbers.
As the country’s first designated Hedgehog Improvement Area (HIA), Solihull is already leading the way in national conservation efforts – with families and schools across the borough getting involved in the Trust’s work.
At the crack of dawn each day Simon patrols parks around Solihull, checking the specially-made hedgehog survey tunnels for signs of disturbance.
The triangular tubes with blank paper, ink pads and bait food inside, see hedgehogs and any other small animals leave a trail of inky footprints – giving Simon and his team an accurate survey of what flora and fauna are in the nearby area.
And while the tunnels may not be able to tell the Trust how many hedgehogs have made their homes in the borough, they provide the team with information of 95 per cent accuracy where hedgehogs are and are not.
But it is not all good news.
“Habitat loss, the destruction of hedgerows and the changes in our gardens to have decking and patios in favour of green space has had a huge effect on hedgehog populations,” Simon said.
“And something as simple as leaving a small hole in your garden fences could really make a difference.”
Alongside his patrols, Simon spends much of his time giving school assemblies and talking to local groups about how they can do their bit to help the Trust’s survey and hedgehog numbers.
As part of the project, funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, anyone living in Solihull is able to register their interest and set up their own hedgehog survey tunnel or borrow a state-of-the-art remote camera from the Trust to see if hedgehogs are visiting their gardens.
Another part of Simon’s job is collecting people’s hedgehog sightings via the ‘Log a Hog’ survey and mapping it.
Simon added: “Not only does our work act as a really good community engagement activity, but is also has real scientific rigor.
“All sightings are interesting to us – whether the hedgehog is dead or alive – as it lets us know where in the borough they are choosing to live.”
In doing so, Simon and the Trust are hoping to build a comprehensive map of where hedgehog populations are so they can better protect and conserve their numbers in the future.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, with Simon and his team remaining positive about the future of the spiky mammals.
“I hope through our grassroots work that we can build real support within our local community and schools.
“We have big aspirations to expand this project into surrounding areas and have a positive effect on the wild and urban populations.
“The power of people is amazing – and they have really taken the project and hedgehogs into their hearts and homes.”
To find out more information, or to get involved in the HIA project – whether it be through surveying for hedgehogs in your garden or through participating in hedgehog volunteering opportunities – visit www.helpforhedgehogs.co.uk.
Wild about Gardens Week runs until Sunday, November 1 with more information on activities to be found online at www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk