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Hedgehog Street People: Jo from Hedgehog Friendly Campus

19th August 2022

Jo Wilkinson is the brains behind Hedgehog Friendly Campus, a national project aiming to help hedgehogs through our academic institutions. Starting in universities, HFC has now expanded to primary schools and colleges, with more plans for the future. Participants undertake a series of achievements to aim towards bronze, silver and gold awards, with an amazing 92 accreditations being awarded in 21/22.

How did Hedgehog Friendly Campus start?

Hedgehog Friendly Campus started at the University of Sheffield during Hedgehog Awareness Week in 2018. I wanted to show staff and students why hedgehogs are at threat and how they can help. We did Hedgehog Safaris to find out if hedgehogs were there. With support from the grounds and gardens staff, hedgehog-friendly changes were made to the green spaces on campus. There was enthusiasm from all areas of the university, including senior managers, local community groups and those who didn’t normally engage in sustainability issues. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society then funded the programme and it was rolled out to all UK universities!

Tell us about some of the achievements of HFC?

In 2021, 239 habitat piles were created, 30 hedgehog crossing signs were installed and 104 hedgehog surveys took place. We’ve had hedgehog rescues, hedgehog hazards audits and hedgehog awareness campaigns. Almost 200 grounds staff have voluntarily attended training to learn how they can help hedgehogs and over 1000 students and staff have been trained on how to survey for hedgehogs. And since Hedgehog Friendly Campus began, we’ve accredited over 100 universities, colleges and schools with Bronze, Silver and Gold awards!

Creating log piles at the University of Surrey

What does your typical day consist of?

It’s such a varied role! Sometimes I’m creating campaigns and competitions, other times I’m recruiting new teams to join the programme. I spend a lot of time delivering talks and training workshops like hedgehog surveys and grounds team training. I consult on team projects, advise on grounds plans and write the activities based on best practice for hedgehogs. At the moment, I’m doing a lot of conferences to talk to teachers and educators about why saving hedgehogs really matters, something that isn’t always immediately obvious to people. 

Why did you decide to work on hedgehogs?

I’ve always loved hedgehogs. My memories of them as a child are all really positive and hopeful, like when my dad would move them out of the road, or my school would remind us to check bonfires before setting them alight. I guess I naively thought ‘they must be ok, everyone’s looking out for them’. So I was genuinely saddened and to be honest really disheartened when I learned how in decline they are. I went to hear Hugh Warwick speak at a local event to find out how I could help and a few weeks later was accepted on an internship with Ali North, Hedgehog Officer at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. And that was it, I was hooked. I knew what I had to do.

Jo using a footprint tunnel

What is the best way someone can help stop hedgehogs’ decline?

One of the biggest issues hedgehogs and other UK wildlife faces is habitat loss. But with some simple tweaks we can all help to replace some of that lost habitat. Like many of our hedgehog friendly campuses, there’s loads of simple stuff you can do. Why not install some habitat piles, bug hotels and leaf piles? You could let some grass grow longer into a mini-meadow and start to love your brambles and nettles. Work with nature and not against it!

What’s the future for HFC?

Last year, we expanded the programme to include colleges and primary schools and it’s been super successful. We’ve since had loads of nurseries, secondary schools and sixth forms wanting to get involved, so we’ll be putting a programme together for them. The approach we use could work for anyone who manages land, but for now we’re sticking to educational institutions.

A litter pick at Newcastle University

How can a Hedgehog Champion get involved in HFC?

If you or anyone you know works or studies at a university, college or primary school please get involved. We have teams set up at over 200 institutions and always need more volunteers. Drop us an email, check out our website or find us on social media.

And finally, what is your favourite animal (apart from hedgehogs!) and why?

I’ve always really loved rats. They’re really social animals. They can swim and are (perhaps surprisingly) very clean.