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Sussex film to protect hedgehogs on bonfire night

A film director from Sussex has created a documentary highlighting the plight of hedgehogs. It's estimated that many of the animals die having tried to nest in wood piles at this time of year. The public are being asked to check before lighting their bonfires - if it is safe to do so.

Hedgehog documentary Credit: Tom Sands

“I’ve loved bonfire night since I was a kid and Lewes builds some of the biggest bonfires in the country. For us this is a great fun time of year but it can be a very dangerous time for hedgehogs and other wildlife, with dozens accidentally being killed each year.

“I wanted to find a way to raise awareness of this and encourage people to check their bonfires for wildlife before lighting them”

– Tom Sands, Producer and Director, Substantial Films


Public urged to report hedgehog sightings

A hedgehog being weighed Credit: East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service

With the hedgehog population declining by 5% each year, an animal charity in Sussex is asking people to report sightings of the prickly creature.

The East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service is urging anyone who finds a hedgehog to call their rescue line. They will then scan the hedgehog for a microchip to see if it has been previously released in the area.

Their plea comes before with national Hedgehog Awareness Week, which runs from 1st to 7th May.

Volunteer Kathy with a rescued hedgehog Credit: East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service

Hedgehogs are adorable creatures and the most common mammal we see at our Hospital.

It is thought that one of the biggest reasons for the decline is people blocking hedgehog pathways when installing new fencing or proofing gardens so they can't roam through large enough areas to find food or other hedgehogs to mate with in order to keep the population going. You only need a hole the size of CD for hedgehogs to get in and out of gardens."

– Trevor Weeks, founder, Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service

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

Hedgehog numbers fall by 30% but who's to blame?

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.


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.