Vote confirms UK love affair with a prickly character

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The Independent Online

The British public have voted hedgehogs the nation's top "Icon of the Environment". In a poll conducted by the Environment Agency to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the hedgehog emerged victorious from 70 nominations. The top five also included the otter, red squirrel, oak trees and bluebell woods.

The vote comes at a time when the hedgehog is in decline, mainly due to climate change affecting its eating and breeding habits.

Helen McCallum, director of corporate affairs at the Environment Agency said: "As an iconic symbol of the environment, the hedgehog is very appropriate - it can appear to be impregnable but in reality it's vulnerable."

She added: "What's conspicuous about the most popular icons is the delicate state of these species - otters are recovering from near extinction due to pesticides and red squirrels are being squeezed out by grey squirrels."

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