Hedgehog lover fears for species’ future after a decline in numbers

Carole Catchpole with a hedgehog.
Carole Catchpole with a hedgehog.

A conservationist who runs a charity dedicated to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of hedgehogs fears the species could be extinct within 20 years, after research shows numbers are continuing to fall.

Wildlife lover Carol Catchpole has spoken of her concern following the recent publication of a report by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015 follows the first comprehensive review of the creatures’ status nationally in 2011.

Since this first report, several ongoing surveys, by PTES and others, have shown a continuing population decline.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015, publicised at a special UK summit on hedgehogs last weekend, paints a stark picture: Since 2000, records of the species have declined by half in rural areas and by a third in urban ones.

And Carol, 71, who runs Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust in Longframlington, says the local picture in the county is just as grim as the national one.

“It is a concern,” said Carol, who has been caring for the creatures since 1998.

She added: “In the early 1980s, I counted 13 hedgehogs in the garden at one time. I have not seen that since and probably never will and most of the people who bring hedgehogs into the centre say the same thing.

“People are no longer getting them in their gardens and I am worried, because I believe that in 10 or 20 years they will be extinct nationally.”

The loss of hedgerows and intensive farming in rural areas, along with tidy fenced-in gardens in urban and suburban locations, are just some of the threats contributing to the demise of hedgehogs.

Suggesting ways to help, Carol said: “A hedgehog can go into 10 gardens a night in urban areas, so if people cut a five-inch hole in their fence, it helps them go from garden to garden. I would also urge people to put out food and water for them and to leave a small wild section in your garden.”

PTES and BHPS are working to ensure the long-term survival of this iconic native animal and have also launched a joint, 10-year conservation strategy for the hedgehog in Britain.

This report has been developed in consultation with leading experts, NGOs and statutory bodies and is designed help plan conservation action up to 2025.

The two wildlife charities are also appealing for more volunteers to join Hedgehog Street, which encourages people to connect their gardens and other green spaces to improve hedgehogs’ access to food, shelter and mates.

Since its launch in 2011, Hedgehog Street has inspired over 36,000 volunteers to create hedgehog-friendly neighbourhoods, by linking up their gardens and green spaces.

For more details, visit www.hedgehogstreet.org

Carol has encouraged people to do all they can to help the creatures, believing it would be absolutely devastating if the hedgehog – voted as Britain’s National Species in a 2013 BBC Wildlife poll – became extinct.

“They have been on this earth for many years and they are interesting, wonderful creatures.”

Carol is looking for more volunteers to help her at the Rescue Trust. She said: “I am getting people bringing in hedgehogs from all over and attracting volunteers is not always easy, but it is very rewarding and it is lovely to be so close to wildlife.

For details, visit hedge hogs-northumbria.org.uk/