King George VI (1895-1952) said, “The wildlife of today is not ours to dispose of as we please. We have it in trust. We must account for it to those who come after.” He would be turning in his grave if he could see the problems that current-day adults are making for our wildlife.
For evidence of the gross incompetence of grown-ups you have to look no further than our own back gardens where hedgehog sightings have decreased alarmingly in recent years. Our survey this week attracted 1,185 respondents and of those over 60% have NEVER seen a hedgehog in the wild.
It has been reliably reported that the hedgehog population decreased dramatically in the latter half of the 20th Century from around 30 million in the 1950s to less than 2 million by the end of the century. Now there are less than 1 million in the country and Chris Packham said in a recent Autumnwatch programme that we are losing one fifth of our total hedgehogs every 5 years.
The stark reality is that the human population of the UK has INCREASED by about 35% in the last 70 years whilst the hedgehog population has DECREASED by a staggering 98%. Whereas there was 1 hedgehog for every 2 people, there is now 1 hedgehog for every 67 people. Regular sightings of hedgehogs were once the norm but now a sighting is a rarity.
It is easy to make excuses for humans. It’s evident that we need more food for the world’s burgeoning population, but more food means intensive agriculture, intensive agriculture means fewer insects, fewer insects means less food for hedgehogs and inevitably fewer hedgehogs. More people in the country travelling around means more cars on the road and more cars on the road means more hedgehogs getting run over.
It’s easy to understand the problem but it simply isn’t good enough for adults to say, “Well that’s the way it is”. Neither is it good enough for children to say, “It’s all the adults' fault and I have no influence over them”.
It is wonderful to see from our series of surveys that children of today are much more engaged with the environment than were their parents and grandparents. It’s not that adults don’t care about the environment, it’s just that they are not as well informed as children. The first thing that children need to do is accept that older family members need educating in these things!
Hedgehogs are suffering because of humans so tell the adults that you are really concerned about this. Even if the adults seem to care little about the environment, it is a fact that they care deeply about you. You might be surprised at just how much influence you have over parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles when they know that something is important to you.
If you are lucky enough to live in a home with a garden then here are 4 really beneficial things you can do to help hedgehogs.
The problem is this: Metaldehyde is a powerful poison and when the slugs are eaten by animals and birds, particularly hedgehogs, the poison is then inside the animals. As the digestive juices get to work on the slugs, the poisons are released and the animal itself is poisoned. Many adults don’t know this because they have never thought about it.
For a personal perspective on Metaldehyde see Metaldehyde, The Law and Education Quizzes.
If the above explanation doesn’t convince them to stop using slug pellets then try this. Hedgehogs belong not to one family but to all the people in your community that enjoy them. The adults around you wouldn’t willingly damage the property of someone else, so why do they think it is right to damage a hedgehog that belongs to your community?
If they are still not convinced then tell them that the plants that the slugs are eating in your garden are of little consequence to anyone else - but the hedgehogs are. Tell the slug-pellet-users that there is an alternative – get up in the middle of the night with a torch and pick off all the slugs and dispose of them. You might find that suddenly hostas are not so appealing to the gardeners and they will look for plants that are less appealing to the slugs!
The problem is this: hedgehogs need to forage over a large area in order to get all the food they need and if they can’t get into your garden then their food resource is restricted. On top of that, if the hedgehogs can’t go through your garden then you might be preventing them getting to other gardens.
A few small, hedgehog-size holes in fences let the hedgehogs in to eat the damaging insects and slugs. You’ll maybe find that there’s no need for those slug pellets after all.
You will find hedgehog houses of all shapes and sizes advertised on the internet or available in your local garden centre. One of these would surely be your perfect Christmas or birthday present – wouldn’t it? Ideally these hedgehog homes need to be placed in a quiet part of the garden where a hedgehog will not be disturbed during the winter months when it is hibernating. This might make you one of the lucky few who see a hedgehog regularly and if you are really lucky, you will be rewarded with the sight of a troop of baby hedgehogs (they are called hoglets by the way!) next year.
If a hedgehog visits your garden and you want to feed it then make sure you give it either cat food or dog food. Traditionally they were fed bread and milk but this has been proven to damage a hedgehog's health.
If you find a poorly hedgehog it is best to seek expert help. Most areas now have sanctuaries where hedgehogs are given the loving attention they require to get better. Try a local search on Google to find the nearest sanctuary to you.
Thanks to caring individuals like you, there are now some areas where hedgehogs are staging a comeback. The State of Nature 2019 report tells us that in low-density urban habitats there are regions where the hedgehog population is growing again.
You have a real opportunity to play your part in helping nature and there’s no doubt that you will find it to be one or the most rewarding and enjoyable things you ever do!
We care so much about saving the humble hedgehog that we have started a campaign to reinstate the ban on metaldehyde. Would you like to help? It’s so easy to do – just follow this link and add your name to our petition. We - and the hedgehogs - would be very grateful!
If you want to find out more about hedgehogs, or about our campaign, you might find these pages of interest:
The survey question this week was “When did you last see a hedgehog in the wild?” These are the results from 1,185 children who responded:
|When a Hedgehog Was Last Seen||Percentage of Children|
|Within the Last Month||10|
|Within the Last Year||17|
|Within the Last 10 Years||11|
|Never Seen One||62|