In recent years it appears that our much loved Mrs Tiggywinkle has shaken off her frock and bonnet and thrown herself into the urban life of our towns and cities.
Studies have shown that hedgehogs have a remarkable ability to live alongside humans in our urban and suburban environments, which can provide a richer habitat for this species than the open countryside. Indeed, thriving populations of hedgehogs have even been recorded within some parks of central London.
However, sightings of hedgehogs are becoming rare and conservationists are now on red alert due to this rapid decline in population. Although hedgehogs are a designated a Species of Principal Importance, the total population numbers are under researched, nonetheless, estimates have shown that this species is declining in the UK as fast as tigers worldwide.
Gardens once provided widespread safe areas to feed, breed and hibernate, but changes in modern garden design and loss of habitat connectivity through impermeable fencing has created a problem for hedgehogs. Roads prove a major obstacle for this species and the increased use in pesticides through intensive farming and gardening is leaving these invertebrate lovers hungry.
However, there is some hope for the future of this species, which surprisingly to some, may come in the form of housing development.
Well designed urban and suburban environments which include green infrastructure and public open spaces can provide excellent habitat opportunities for hedgehogs. By providing these natural pest controllers with barrier free corridors through the integration of permeable fencing and light touch management of green spaces, both large and small scale developments can improve the current habitat availability for this species.
Native Ecology are currently planning a hedgehog research project, with surveys to commence once our local hedgehogs have finished hibernating in spring. By understanding local distribution and habitat use of this species we are aiming to encourage an enhanced urban environment that will not only benefit hedgehogs but also help to maintain favourable conditions for many other protected and declining species.