We have launched a new petition calling on the government to offer greater legal protection for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs have recently been added to the UK red list as a species vulnerable to extinction. Every other mammal on that list has greater legal protection than the hedgehog. We must do all in our power to help the steep population decline of our prickly friends, before it’s too late. And link to petition.
The inclusion, today, of the hedgehog in the Red List for British Mammals is not a surprise for us at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). We have been at the heart of research that has charted the demise of the nation’s favourite animal.
The recognition of the vulnerable status of the hedgehog is, however, an opportunity. It will give impetus to those of us campaigning to protect the habitats that the hedgehog needs to thrive, and increase the awareness of the importance of connecting those habitats.
This has been central to the campaign Hedgehog Street – which we run in partnership with People’s Trust for Endangered Species. All over the country people are working in their gardens to help wildlife – and we are encouraging them to connect those gardens with small 13cm square holes.
“What people do on behalf of the hedgehog is amazing,” said Fay Vass, CEO of the BHPS. “The holes made in fences, the feeding, the hedgehog houses, the wildlife friendly planting, the removal of hazards – all makes such a difference locally.”
“But it is not enough to rely on the good will of individuals to protect this important creature,” Fay continues. “We need Government to enforce wildlife friendly practices. From farming to development to transport – wildlife needs to be taken seriously.”
The BHPS is calling on Government, in the light of this new internationally recognised classification, to increase the protection offered to the hedgehog under the Wildlife and Countryside Act by moving it to schedule 5, allowing the level of protection appropriate for such a keystone species in decline.
Do robotic lawn mowers harm hedgehogs?
Robotic lawn mowers running at night have been declared a great threat to the population of European hedgehogs. However, it has yet to be documented scientifically whether the robotic lawn mowers can harm hedgehogs. Hedgehog researcher Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen from Aalborg University in Denmark has decided to put it to the test.
Countless news features have described how robotic lawn mowers running at night are mutilating hedgehogs. Worried citizens share pictures of injured hedgehogs on the social media encouraging garden owners to stop using robotic lawn mowers in order to protect the hedgehogs. But are the robotic lawn mowers in fact to blame for the injuries?
“People are truly fond of hedgehogs and frequently share advice regarding on how to help them, such as alerting people to the fact hedgehogs are lactose intolerant or suggesting that bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit, as hedgehogs may build nests inside the piles of wood and branches. The latest advice that is being shared is regarding robotic lawnmowers but we do not have scientific documentation proving that the robotic lawn mowers are causing the horrific injuries we see. We know that some of the injuries are consistent with lacerations caused by garden strimmers or dog bites,” says hedgehog researcher Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen.
In her previous research she has necropsied 697 dead hedgehogs collected by volunteers throughout Denmark, and none of these hedgehogs showed signs of being killed by robotic lawn mowers.
Testing on dead hedgehogs
Sophie Lund Rasmussen is therefore keen to investigate whether robotic lawn mowers harm hedgehogs. By September, she will commence her postdoc position at Aalborg University and also join the WildCRU at Oxford University, where she will continue her research on The Danish Hedgehog Project. But until then she will spend her summer holiday investigating if there is any truth to the claim that robotic lawn mowers kill hedgehogs, or if the explanation for the injuries should be found elsewhere.
The research project is performed in collaboration with Animal Protection Denmark, Pindsvine Plejerne, WildCRU at Oxford University and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
The scientific investigation will be based on dead hedgehogs placed in front of approaching robotic lawn mowers, to record exactly how the machines react towards the hedgehogs. Do they detect them, stop and change direction, as they are supposed to? The dead hedgehogs in the study will be collected from hedgehog rehabilitation centres, where they were sadly too poorly to save. By using them for this project, the dead hedgehog will not have died in vain as they will instead help the living population.
“It is important to discover and document what is causing the horrific injuries we see on hedgehogs every year so that we can improve the conservation initiatives directed at this declining species. If my research shows that the robotic lawn mowers are not the cause, it is important to shift people’s focus to the real source of the problem to best protect the hedgehogs,” explains Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen.
Hedgehog friendly robotic lawn mowers
The hedgehog researcher will investigate whether it is only special types of robotic lawn mowers with specific features that are causing the injuries, and if e.g. only smaller, juvenile hedgehogs are in danger of being injured or killed by the machines. Based on the results of the study, Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen will collaborate with the producers of robotic lawn mowers to develop more hedgehog friendly models.
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who is funding the project, says “This is important work, we need to find out if these mowers are in fact harmful to hedgehogs. If so we can offer advice to industry and to the public on how best to help hedgehogs when caring for the lawn. If these devices are of no threat, we can focus our efforts elsewhere. We would hasten to add of course no live hedgehogs will be in danger from this study.”
Sophie Lund Rasmussen holds a PhD in biology and hedgehog ecology from University of Southern Denmark and Naturama. She will continue her research on The Danish Hedgehog Project as a postdoc at Aalborg University and WildCRU, Oxford University from September 2020, where she will conduct research into accumulation of poisons in hedgehogs.
The research project on robotic lawn mowers and hedgehogs is funded by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Sophie Lund Rasmussen was one of five finalists in the science communication competition called PhD Cup 2020, established as a collaboration between Danish National Television (DR), Information and the Lundbeck Foundation. Read more here: http://www.phdcup.dk/english/
You can follow Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen’ s research on the Facebook page Pindsvineforskning Hedgehog Research Denmark: https://www.facebook.com/Pindsvineforskning
Hedgehog Friendly Campus
Huge CONGRATULATIONS to all 23 universities who just achieved Bronze Hedgehog Friendly Campus Accreditation in our Hedgehog Friendly Campus project! Onwards to Silver now! It's not too late to join in!Posted by British Hedgehog Preservation Society on Tuesday, 21 January 2020
to all universities achieving their Bronze accreditation for 2019/2020 – onwards to Silver now! If you would like to get your campus involved please find out more by emailing email@example.com.
The following Universities have achieved Bronze Accreditation (2019/2020):
Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Essex, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, Gloucestershire, Keele, Kent, Lancaster, Lincoln, Liverpool, Loughborough, Northampton, Northumbria, Roehampton, Sheffield, Surrey, University of East Anglia, UWE Bristol, Winchester, Worcester, York, York St John
Housebuilder launches industry-first hedgehog campaign to protect creatures under threatA national housebuilder has joined forces with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and launched a trailblazing campaign to protect hedgehogs and other endangered creatures at locations across the country. In an industry-first initiative, Bovis Homes, part of the newly-formed Vistry Group, will install hedgehog highways to its existing developments and all future sites wherever possible, as part of a campaign that will also help other small mammals, birds, frogs and insects. The housebuilder has also donated £5,000 to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and teamed up with national project Hedgehog Street – a joint undertaking between BHPS and People’s Trust for Endangered Species – to further support their work.
Regional marketing manager, Louise Macrae, said: “We are proud to be the first housebuilder aiming to roll-out hedgehog highways as standard across current locations and our new developments, to help one of the nation’s favourite animals roam freely at night between gardens.”
“As part of our new sustainability steering group, protecting hedgehogs and the environment is at the forefront of what we want to achieve and we are delighted to join forces with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and take the lead in the housebuilding industry.”
“Connectivity is vital to allow hedgehogs to find enough food, mates and shelter. There are many simple measures we can all take to help their numbers recover and ensuring easy access to our gardens is a very important step.”Bovis Homes is developing the highways – holes that are created at ground level in fencing and other barriers – which are designed to allow access between gardens and wilder areas, and marked with a plaque. It is also building hedgehog homes in green spaces. Hedgehogs walk more than a mile every night so need to move around freely between gardens. Literature will be provided for customers to inform them about the best way to help. People can encourage hedgehogs by putting a hedgehog home in their garden or a log pile, which provides natural food and shelter for hedgehogs. Ponds are also suitable if there is an escape route in the form of a ramp or a sloping edge. Hedgehogs can swim well but cannot escape steep, slippery-sided ponds.
Fay Vass, chief executive of BHPS, said: “We are delighted that Bovis Homes is making this important pledge to help our dwindling population of hedgehogs. Creating holes for hedgehogs in fences and walls is a simple step but it could have a huge impact on the amount of habitat available for hedgehogs following the development of a site.
“There are many small actions we can all take to help hedgehogs in our gardens and green spaces, and joined together those small actions can make a huge difference to a species under threat.”Wildlife author and ecologist Hugh Warwick added that the “built environment” could help hedgehogs recover, if developments were built with wildlife in mind, and that Bovis Homes’ hedgehog highways were a “crucial” contribution. Sign the petition, using the link below, to get government to insist upon hedgehog highways in new builds: https://www.change.org/p/help-save-britain-s-hedgehogs-with-hedgehog-highways
With bonfire night and Halloween fast approaching, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is urging people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering.
This will not only save wildlife from burning to death but will also stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before! Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said “If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”
If a large bonfire must be built in advance, protect it whilst building by putting some chicken wire, at least one-metre-high, all the way around the bottom. This should be held in place with stakes and the wire should slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult to climb, as hedgehogs are good climbers! In case you have missed anything light the fire from one side only and keep people away from the unlit side so that any hedgehogs can hopefully escape in peace.
If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended, for however short a time, it’s imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting. As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help to see and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed. Fay continues “If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard or plastic box with plenty of newspaper/old towelling. Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box, as hedgehogs are great climbers. Wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed – also, it protects your hands from their spikes. Put the box in a safe quiet place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities, offer specialist hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food and water. Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.”
Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals!
Help raise awareness using our collection of downloadable posters:
A petition on change.org calling on Housing and Planning Minister Kit Malthouse to make the integration of hedgehog highways compulsory in all new build housing developments has taken everyone by surprise. In just two weeks over 300,000 people have signed!
Why has this taken the public by storm? The hedgehog is the nation’s favourite animal – every poll tells the same story. Yet the hedgehog is suffering from a dramatic population decline. The latest State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report from the Hedgehog Street Campaign shows how in just the last 18 years urban hedgehog numbers are down by 30% and rural hedgehogs down by 50%.
Hugh Warwick, Ecologist, Author and Communications Officer for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) started the petition “We know that hedgehog numbers are declining,” he said, “and we know that one of the biggest problems they face is the way we chop our land up into smaller pieces. This often happens when new fences are put in place – and as we are facing a house building boom there are going to be hundreds of thousands of new barriers to hedgehog movement.”
Perhaps surprisingly, new housing can help hedgehogs, if it is done with wildlife in mind. The petition is calling on Kit Malthouse to do just that – make sure all new fences have hedgehog holes built into them. Just a 13cm square, these holes help hedgehogs move the considerable distances we know they can travel each night – over a mile is not uncommon.
Hugh continues “Couple this with wildlife sensitive planting, ponds, and bat and swift bricks, new housing estates can offer homes for hedgehogs and other wildlife as well as for people.”
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS adds “This petition is aimed at making new build sites better for hedgehogs, but improvements can also easily be made in existing homes too! Hedgehog Street is a project we run with People’s Trust for Endangered Species and its website offers a wealth of information and advice for homeowners wanting to help our prickly friends, you can even sign up to be a Hedgehog Champion!”
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is delighted to have scooped prestigious accolades at the Charity Film Awards held in London on 11th May. Their Hedgehog Close film held off fierce competition to be placed silver in their category and honoured with the overall People’s Choice Award.
Hedgehog Close was created to spread the word about how to help hedgehogs and make people aware of their plight. Voiced by Gordon Buchanan and created by Zest Productions, the ‘Aardman-esque’ film has been widely shared on social media and viewed by well over a million people to date.
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS said “We were so pleased to have won a silver award, you could have knocked us down with a feather when our little charity was called up to the stage to collect the major People’s Choice Award! There were so many wonderful Charities and causes represented on the evening, many far larger organisations than us, so we were especially grateful to have received the most votes from our fantastic supporters.”
Simon Burton, Co-Founder of the Awards praised BHPS saying “The Charity Film Awards is all about films that change behaviour. Hedgehog Close does an incredible job of motivating that change. I don’t know a single person who’s seen the film who hasn’t told me that they’ve cut a hole in their fence to make a hedgehog highway. A brilliant film.”
Film Director, Tom Hooker added “When we first began moulding plasticine hedgehogs and building cardboard houses we never imagined the film would be so widely seen and successful. It was fantastic to be recognised amongst so many other brilliant charities.”
Fay says the awards were even more special being collected at the end of a very busy Hedgehog Awareness Week organised by the Charity each year. “Being presented with the awards, by our lovely Patron David Domoney, was the icing on the #hedgehogweek cake!”
The Charity hope this will boost the popularity of the film even more resulting in more people finding out all about our humble hedgehog. Hedgehog Close can be viewed below.
We are thrilled to announce that our charming short film has been nominated, but now we really need your help as we enter the public vote stage!
Please vote for us here: https://www.charityfilmawards.com/videos/hedgehog-close