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Help hedgehogs by reporting roadkill

People are being asked to help the conservation of hedgehogs Credit: University of Reading

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 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.

“Hedgehogs are an iconic British species, but they face growing threats both in the town and the countryside. Towns and cities provide surprisingly good habitats for hedgehogs, but if different populations become isolated, they may face an uncertain future. Our research is focusing on Reading but our findings will help hedgehog conservation nationwide. That’s why we need people in Reading to be on the lookout for hedgehogs which have sadly been killed on the roads, and to report them to us as soon as possible. At this time of year, hedgehogs are about to start breeding and this means, unfortunately, that many are likely to be killed on roads as they seek out mates.”

– Lead researcher Dr Philip Baker


Trevor's jumper saves baby hedgehogs

The tiny hedgehogs are now thriving

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.

The storeroom where the hedgehogs were found

“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 mum was warmed up in a jumper

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.

One of the tiny babies

"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.

Trying to solve the prickliest of problems

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.

Click below for the full story

Furry friends prepare for radio debut

One of the hedgehogs helping with research. Credit: Andy Dickenson

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.