A victim of man's methods - and, quite possibly, British badgers - the humble hedgehog is becoming an engdangered species. Here's what you can do

Our writer, aware of his advancing years, has a soft spot for these little beasts

Share
Related Topics

I was born and brought up in suburban Manchester, so it's not really surprising that I don't have an intuitive appreciation of wildlife, unless, of course, we are talking about the Continental Club on a Saturday night in the Eighties.

There are various points in our life at which we notice we are getting older - first it's the necessity to wear glasses, then it's the fact that we can't remember where we've left our glasses, and then we reach the stage when we don't even know that our glasses are on our head. Another sign of, let's say, maturity - in my case, at least - is a greater interest in the natural world, and particularly the way in which modern living threatens the established order of things.

Dismay

Or maybe it's just that, 30 or 40 years ago, we never felt we had to worry about such matters. But it's with a heavy heart that I bring you the latest news from the frontiers of British wildlife. That humble, once ubiquitous, symbol of the English countryside, the hedgehog, finds itself threatened with extinction.

This is a remarkable, and dismaying, turn of events. A variety of man-made factors - loss of natural habitat, gardening methods, intensive farming, pesticides - have driven numbers of these idiosyncratic creatures down by more than a third in the past decade, and now the People's Trust for Endangered Species, who conducted the survey which came up with this alarming statistic, are mounting a campaign, in conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, to protect Britain's remaining hedgehogs.

That's right. The hedgehog. An endangered species. Up there with the Siberian tiger and the mountain gorilla. Ask around: hardly anyone sees a hedgehog these days. And while recent harsh winters have been challenging for all animals in the wild, experts say there is a particular difficulty for hedgehogs. “Hedghogs are not fussy eaters,” said David Wembridge, one of the authors of the survey, “so they should be able to get by, even in a bad year.

A fall in numbers suggests a much bigger problem.” He points to the removal of hedgerows, plus the larger fields required by modern farming methods. The fashion for paving and terracing in gardens is another contributory factor, and those who have the animal's best interests at heart urge gardeners to leave some areas wild to encourage nesting. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that the hedgehog may face another danger: British wildlife's miscreant of the moment, the badger.

Do your bit

It is not certain that badgers prey on hedgehogs, but it is certainly true that badger numbers have increased while those of the hedgehog have diminished, and farmers are convinced there is a cause and effect here. So perhaps Beatrix Potter was right to portray her badger as a villain. But the contemporary tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle need not have a sad ending.

We can all do our bit to help. From this Friday, a nationwide initiative begins to monitor the numbers and movements of British hedgehogs as they emerge from hibernation in an effort to understand what's happening on the ground, so to speak. Go to www.hedgehogstreet.org for details. Even a city boy like me can see this is important.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Events Business) - Manchester - Urgent!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A teacher of Science is required by this 11...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this Co-educatio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea