Although our projects are at an end, you can still sign up to become one of just under 70,000 Hedgehog Champions nationwide, to continue raising awareness about hedgehog decline.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust started a Help for Hedgehogs Campaign in 2013 in response to dropping national hedgehog numbers. This campaign aimed to raise awareness and get people interested in helping their local hedgehogs. Owing to high levels of interest, in 2015, the UK’s first Hedgehog Improvement Area (HIA) was set up across the largely urban borough of Solihull. Following its success, a sister HIA was then launched in the largely rural borough of Rugby in 2016. Both HIAs were funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and ran until the end of 2019.
The vision of the HIAs was to empower communities to save their local hedgehogs through focused community engagement, surveying and encouraging habitat improvements.
The HIAs engaged almost 15,000 people, involving work with schools and varied events to a diverse audience. Events included talks, walks, fêtes, bioblitzs, networking days, child-friendly activities, habitat improvement days, training sessions and workshops. Articles were also written and interviews conducted for local, national and international media, findings presented at meetings and conferences, and regular posts written for social media. The word was spread far and wide, with people across the county and beyond encouraged to get involved in hedgehog conservation.
Thousands of hedgehog records have now been logged across Warwickshire. These sightings help to give us an idea of distribution, and highlight potential hotspots (often suburbs with connected gardens) and blackspots (often fragmented habitat with large areas of grey infrastructure) of activity. We no longer take records of hedgehog sightings but we encourage you to submit your records of hedgehogs (dead or alive) to Warwickshire Biological Records Centre and the national BIG Hedgehog Map.
Volunteers were also involved in surveying to see if hedgehogs were present or absent in an area using footprint tunnels. A triangular tube is baited with food and placed along the edge of a green space, where hedgehogs roam. Attracted to the bait, as the hedgehog goes to eat the food, it walks over a carbon-based ink mixture and leaves footprint tracks on the adjacent paper.
Since September 2018, hedgehogs have been marked and monitored at our designated Hedgehog Hub sites, Coombe Country Park (Rugby) and Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (Solihull). Each May and September, volunteers walk set transects after dark, looking and listening for hedgehogs. When found, hedgehogs are marked under licence with numbered plastic tubes over a few of their spines. Their health is also checked and measurements taken, such as weight and circumference. This allows us to monitor those hedgehog populations over time and gives us a better idea of what is happening to hedgehogs in Warwickshire. This monitoring has now been taken over by Warwickshire Mammal Group: https://warksmammalgroup.wixsite.com/warks-mammal-group.
This short video gives you a brief introduction into the nocturnal world of hedgehog surveys and how we monitor those at our Hedgehog Hub sites.
The ultimate aim of the HIAs was to get people involved in taking action to help hedgehogs by improving habitat and connecting up the landscape. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust worked with local authorities to alter green space management plans and change policy, and with ecologists and developers to make new housing developments more hedgehog-friendly. Communities across the HIAs were involved in creating and maintaining habitat for hedgehogs, such as hedges, and Neighbourhood Areas were encouraged to include hedgehogs and their habitats in their Development Plans.
Many thanks to our HIA sponsors, who generously supported the work with funding and resources. Naturesave recently gave a second installment of funds to help volunteers continue to survey for, and monitor, local hedgehog populations, despite the HIA project coming to an end. Read all about it in the Press Release.