Hedgehog Street is a brilliant and simple idea – don’t just make your garden hedgehog friendly; talk to your neighbours, get them ‘onside’ and then make a hole in the intervening fence.

Habitat fragmentation is an under-appreciated threat to wildlife conservation. The presence of individuals of a species can lull one into believing that they are okay – but if they are present in numbers too low, this can mean that the population is ‘functional extinct’ – that it will just die out.

There has been some very interesting work done on ‘viable populations’ – especially with regards to hedgehogs – and it has revealed the surprising amount of land that these little creatures need. In the best habitat possible (imagine an ecologically managed golf-course with suburban gardens backing on to it – all with holes in fences) – there needs to be at least 90 hectares of unfragmented land … that is around three 18-hole golf courses … Now when was the last time you found that sort of scale of unfragmented land?

Hedgehog Street is a brilliant and simple idea – yes – but it is only a seed. It would be a rare street that could command that sort of area. And this is why the new movement around the country to take the seed and allow it to blossom is so exciting. First there was the ‘Hedgehog Improvement Area‘ in Solihull – then I have been involved with launching Heaton’s Hedgehog Highway

Hedgehog

and the North Oxford Hedgehog Conservation Area – which has already seen some lovely new holes appearing (thank you Cherwell Boathouse)

hedgehog hole

There is a project growing in Suffolk and a couple of weeks ago I got to run a hedgehog ‘masterclass’ at Chester Zoo as they launch their Wildlife Connections event. They made a short video around an interview I gave (after speaking for 5 hours … hence bags under eyes and husky voice!)

I like the circularity of this work – we need to make connections to allow hedgehogs to thrive – and the only way to do that is to make connections within our community – talking not just to neighbours but to people further away – and to the institutions who help manage the tracts of land in between.

We might not be able to agree over the EU – but we can all, surely, come together to work for the improvement of the life of the hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are in the news, again.

You have to admit that we have a pretty good PR machine in operation around this rather special animal. And it trundles along, oblivious to all the fuss – unless we have recruited one to be a film star as I have done on a few occasions.

But today things might be about to change – and the hedgehogs might just notice something different, especially if they live in Warwickshire and around Solihull in particular. Because the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has employed a ‘Hedgehog Officer’ and launched an innovative ‘Hedgehog Improvement Area.‘ This project has been funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

They are linking up 90 hectares of hedgehog friendly habitat – incorporating a park, nature reserve and housing. This is the next step from our wonderful Hedgehog Street project – because we now know quite how large an area hedgehogs need to thrive. Computer modelling has shown that they need, in the VERY bets of conditions, 90 ha to give them a chance of maintaining a viable population.

At the current rate of expansion – streets to areas in four years – I am predicting a complete overthrow of the established order by the ‘Hedgehog Initiative’ within a decade. We will put in place legislation, through a benign version of dictatorship, that will ensure everywhere is hedgehog friendly …  Hedgehog Officers will become a regular part of every council, in fact they will run the councils.

Okay – got to go and do a radio interview about this – strange how things change, a few years ago I would have fought to get the job of Warwickshire’s Hedgehog Officer … but books have got in the way. Maybe when Oxford recognises the need to have one, I will get my chance!