Sunday, 26 July 2009

Hunt maps out a hedgehog future

Saturday, July 25, 2009, 08:00

HEDGEHOGS are in danger of dying out as a species – so now Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is asking people to help with a rescue operation.

The much-loved spiky mammal has been included on a list of threatened species native to the county.

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is spearheading a new conservation project – The Great Hedgehog Hunt – in a bid to help boost numbers.

Wildlife lovers across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are being urged to get involved by sending in reports of hedgehog sightings to the animal charity so it can build up an accurate picture of the county population and establish where extra conservation work is needed.

Campaign leader Mike Deegan, of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: "Hedgehog numbers are in decline due to pesticide use in the countryside and urban areas, a loss of habitats and populated sites becoming more isolated through development.

"They are going to be included as a conservation priority species on the next Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan, which is currently being updated.

"Staffordshire Wildlife Trust decided to launch The Great Hedgehog Hunt because we want to increase the numbers of these wonderful creatures across the county. But before we do that we need to know where they are.

"Wildlife lovers can also help enormously by making their gardens a haven for hedgehogs. There's loads you can do, such as leaving a 'wild' area in your garden or putting a hedgehog box in a quiet, sheltered spot."

Animal enthusiast Tony Price, aged 59, who runs Westport Wildlife in Longport, said: "Hedgehogs are having a fairly tough time of it. One of the worst things we see is slug pellets. The slugs are poisoned, then the hedgehogs eat the slugs and are poisoned.

"A few weeks ago we had a hot spell, which caused worms, which hedgehogs eat, to go further underground where they are harder to find. We saw hedgehogs wandering around in the daylight, dehydrated.

"A hedgehog needs somewhere to live and overly tidy gardens are not good for them."

Joan Lockley, of West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue, said: "This campaign is a really good idea and I hope it encourages people to make their gardens more hedgehog friendly.

"I have seen some terrible accidents where hedgehogs have been injured by strimmers or have died after falling into ponds they can't climb out of – but making a few simple changes will help minimise these risks."

Wildlife lovers can find out more about the campaign to save hedgehogs at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's 40th anniversary Green Festival, which takes place at the Wolseley Centre, between Stafford and Rugeley, on Wednesday August 5 from 11am until 4pm.

Visitors will have the chance to meet a baby hedgehog – known as a hoglet – courtesy of West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue.

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