Ecologists are asking people in Reading to contribute to vital new research to help the conservation of hedgehogs.
Hedgehog populations in Britain are in trouble, with surveys suggesting their numbers are in steep decline. While changing agricultural practices and a badger resurgence are thought to be to blame, the researchers believe that towns and cities may provide safe havens for the iconic species.
But urban habitats provide their own risks. Now scientists need people to report sightings of dead hedgehogs beside Reading’s roads, so they can find out more about how city traffic is affecting British wildlife.
Sadly, many hedgehogs are killed by cars, leading to concerns that main roads may be combining with other obstacles such as rivers to create barriers to their movement. This may be causing a dangerous fragmentation of hedgehog populations, increasing their susceptibility to environmental changes.
If you spot a dead hedgehog anywhere in Reading, please text Dr Baker as soon as possible on 07960 212624 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Scientists will then recover the body so they can genetically identify the locations of different family groups.
While their research may have implications for hedgehog conservation elsewhere in the UK, the research team will not investigate reports of roadkill outside the Reading urban area, so do not require reports from outside Reading.
They've been on the planet for millions of years and they're often referred to as 'The Gardener's Friend', but hedgehogs are disappearing and no-one really knows why.
Hedgehog numbers have fallen by an estimated third in the last ten years. Once a common sight in your garden, particularly as dusk fell, it's now a rare thing to see one in the wild.
A hedgehog and her four babies have been saved, after quick thinking rescuers warmed them up with a jumper.
Volunteers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service were called to check a female hedgehog and some baby hedgehogs found in a wooden store at the bottom of a garden in Uckfield.
The residents were clearing items and out from a rolled up tarpaulin fell a large hedgehog and some babies which dropped to the floor. Rescuers from WRAS found mum huddled in the corner and some very young, lethargic and cold baby hedgehogs scattered around on the cold bare concrete floor.
“Looking at mum’s front feet we wonder if she was trapped and couldn’t get out as her nails were unusually short, worn down to the quick, she had no bedding material and we think she ran out of time and had to give birth where she was” explained Trevor Weeks MBE founder of WRAS.
“When Trevor passed me the first baby I was surprised how cold he was, straight away I tucked him down my top to keep warm, the others were just as bad and all needed gently warming up” said rescuer Kathy Martyn.
The youngsters were wrapped up and taken back to Trevor’s home in Uckfield where the babies were warmed up in one of Trevor’s best warm winter jumpers with a pair of “Helping Hands” full of hot water. After about 15 minutes all but one of the five young started to respond.
Rescuers decided to try putting the four surviving babies back with mum, to see whether she would accept them after such a traumatic evening.
“To our amazement when we checked an hour later, she had moved closer to her young and they were all tucked up underneath her as if nothing had happened.
"It was amazing as hedgehogs don’t like being disturbed and are notorious at abandoning their young or even killing them when disturbed at such a young age” explained Kathy.
After a couple of hours rescuers moved mum and babies to a large hutch in a shed where they were kept with Trevor’s jumper
“It was so nice to see her nursing her young again and so pleased that they survived their fall and poor start to life” said Kathy, “we will leave her alone for 7 days and will just provide food and water and additional bedding material and check her in a week to see how they are progressing.
"We have all our fingers crossed for her and the survival of her young.”
Hedgehogs are thought to be declining by 5% a year and the work of organisations like WRAS is important conservation and animal welfare work.
Now, as the leaves turn brown and we look towards the winter, spare a thought for the humble hedgehog.
Yes, as if the little creatures didn't have enough to contend with, what with bonfires next month, hedgehogs are in decline. But a team of conservationists from Sussex are hoping to put a stop to that by wiring some up - so they can phone home.
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A herd of rescue hedgehogs who were nursed back to health at the RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings are helping with pioneering research. The hedgehogs are being tagged with tiny little radio transmitters and then released into the woods around the University of Sussex. campus.
The species is reported to be in decline in some parts of the south.