Hedgehog officer job 'spiked' after two-year conservation scheme
PUBLISHED: 19:30 10 July 2019
Ipswich's very first dedicated hedgehog officer has announced she will be stepping down from the role after helping to create hog-friendly 'highways' in numerous gardens across the town.
Conservation champion Ali North has spent the last two years raising awareness of Ipswich's hedgehog community, teaching homeowners and land managers alike how best to protect the prickly characters.
But the 28-year-old has now announced her time in the role has come to an end - and the hedgehog officer job will be 'spiked' for the time being.
The innovative role was borne out of a partnership between Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), together with Heritage Lottery Fund support.
It attracted applications from around the world when it was advertised back in 2016, but was only ever intended to run for two years.
Reflecting on her experience in the role, Ms North said: "We have learnt a lot from the work that we have been doing in Ipswich.
"We have realised how willing people are to take action themselves."
One of Ms North's main responsibilities has been connecting the gardens of Ipswich in an effort to help the hogs safely find their way around the town.
As hedgehogs can travel up to 2km every night, and mainly stick to gardens when foraging for food, it is important to give them right of way by creating easily accessible 'corridors' under gates and fences.
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"We have logged 800 gardens now and we are continuing to log these on our maps," Ms North said.
"Hedgehogs need access to gardens for foraging and nesting; gardens are now largely what they are going to be relying on for finding food.
"Having a connected garden can be really easy - as simple as making sure you have a gap under your gate or under your fence."
The volunteers have also set up wildlife cameras in 250 gardens across the town, so the hogs' progress can be tracked.
In order to protect their spiky neighbours, Ms North said homeowners should refrain from keeping "pristine" gardens - and make a proper home for local wildlife.
"Having a patch of longer grass isn't messy - it isn't a bad thing," she said.
"It is really useful for wildlife. It is a big threat having pristine gardens."
Looking to the future, Ms North is excited to get started on a PhD in conservation science at the University of Plymouth.
She added: "My highlights have been the people I have worked with - amazing people.
"I will always want to work in conservation."