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Ipswich hailed as a hedgehog hotspot as species struggle in rural areas

PUBLISHED: 08:04 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:04 07 February 2018

Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North with one of her prickly friends in one of the town's hedgehog-friendly gardens. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON

Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North with one of her prickly friends in one of the town's hedgehog-friendly gardens. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON

Not to be use without permission from copyright holder: John Ferguson Photography

Urban hedgehog hotspots such as Suffolk’s county town are becoming increasingly important refuges for the popular prickly animals as rural populations continue to decline, a new report reveals today.

Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North tends to an individual in the town. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North tends to an individual in the town. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) have found the number of hedgehogs in the UK countryside is continuing to fall. But in contrast, their joint report shows the decline in urban areas such as Ipswich - a town widely acclaimed for its pioneering community-wide hedgehog conservation - is slowing, and might even be improving.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report combines research from three surveys and draws on data from Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s own county-based survey.

In 2016, backed by Heritage Lottery Fund and BHPS, the Suffolk trust launched a campaign to make Ipswich the most hedgehog-friendly town in the UK. The move came after previous county-wide surveys indicated encouraging numbers in and around the town centre. Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North has since been galvanizing support and recruiting community “hedgehog champions” who promote the creation of “hedgehog highways” through which hedgehogs can move safely.

Although urban hedgehog populations declined by up to a third since 2000, the new report shows the fall is stabilising.

A hedgehig 'snuffles' through an Ipswich garden as the town's hedghog officer Ali North looks on. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON A hedgehig 'snuffles' through an Ipswich garden as the town's hedghog officer Ali North looks on. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON

Ms North said: “It’s really promising to see that the fortunes of urban hedgehog populations could be improving, and that the simple actions individuals are taking really are making a difference.”

Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for the national Hedgehog Street campaign run by BHPS and PTES, said: “We’re really encouraged to see projects like the Ipswich hedgehog project raising awareness of hedgehog decline and what people can do to help them. Suffolk Wildlife Trust is doing fantastic work to promote hedgehog conservation through the creation of hedgehog highways in Ipswich, allowing hedgehogs to roam through the night.”

Integral to the Suffolk trust’s efforts in Ipswich and across Suffolk was the collection of sightings records, which was “as important now as it ever has been,” said Ms Wilson. “The more records collected, the more the trust can do to identify areas where conservation action should be targeted and feed Suffolk data into national findings, like this report,” she said.

Hedgehog-friendly gardens can be recorded on the Suffolk trust’s online map, and the trust wants to know about hedgehog highways that have been created as well as wild areas and nest boxes where hedgehogs have been recorded.

Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North holds two young 'hogs during her studies of the species in the town. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North holds two young 'hogs during her studies of the species in the town. Picture: JOHN FERGUSON

The report cites several reasons for the rural decline of hedgehogs, including intensive agricultural practices that lead to fewer hedgerows and sources of food, pressure from roads, and predation.

Nationally, with about 70% of the UK managed by farmers, BHPS and PTES plan to engage more closely with the farming community in a bid to reverse the rural hedgehog decline.

More information about hedgehogs in Suffolk can be found online.

How you can help our hedghogs

Suffolk Wildlife Trust recommends a few simple steps that can be taken to help hedgehogs recover, including:

Create ‘hedgehog highways’ in gardens by making holes no bigger than the size of CD cases in fences or walls and leaving gaps in gates to allow ‘hog access - they can roam widely, especially at night, and the fewer barriers to their wanderings the better.

Leave wild areas, with log piles, leaves and wildflowers, and limit chemical use

Log your hedgehog-friendly gardens and hedgehog sightings on the trust’s online map.

Survey your garden or green space for hedgehogs – look out for hedgehog droppings and submit records to the map.

Become a Hedgehog Champion - enthuse your neighbours to connect their gardens to create a network of hedgehog highways.

Email Suffolk Wildlife Trust or visit the website.

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