Research: Hedgehog Highways
15th February 2021
We’ve been delighted with the enthusiasm of our Hedgehog Champions (90,000 of you and counting!), and the number of Hedgehog Highways that have been created. Hedgehogs roam across large areas in search of food, shelter and mates, so connecting as many gardens as possible is key. Our gardens can be vital habitat for hedgehogs, and we know that they can thrive where conditions are good.
It’s important for our advice to be underpinned by science, so we want to scrutinise how well the highways are used and whether they do in fact help hedgehog populations. Over the last couple of years, a team from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) have been investigating just that.
How many hogs?
Nicky Simpson and her colleagues selected three urban areas near Gloucester and Cheltenham, all known to have hedgehog populations. To understand whether Hedgehog Highways would help these hedgehogs, Nicky and her team set out to monitor the animals’ presence before and after making the holes in people’s gardens. With more holes, there should be more habitat available, and therefore more evidence of hedgehogs across a wider area.
GWT used many creative ways to raise awareness about the project and encourage people to take part. Community ‘Hedgehog Days’, social media and writing to residents helped spread the word about hedgehogs and how to help. Local residents were also able to get involved in monitoring hedgehogs through footprint tracking tunnels.
- Almost 200 highways were logged on GWT’s website, nearly 60 of which were created during the project.
- The team recorded a 21% increase in the number of gardens with hedgehog access points within their study areas.
- There was a 39% increase in hedgehog sightings after people made highways to enable hedgehogs to get into their gardens.
These are really encouraging results from the GWT team!
Maps created of the three study areas show that hedgehog evidence from tunnels and sightings are still patchy. It’s not enough just to connect your own garden or green space to one or two neighbouring ones. We need to encourage whole streets to see their combined green spaces as a network for hedgehogs to wander through.
Nicky’s GWT team and all her volunteers have proved that people are passionate about hedgehogs and willing to help. But we must work together for real impact to be made. Wildlife desperately needs our help, and that help is so much more impactful when we work together as a community, rather than alone.
If you’d like to rally your neighbours and community, use our free resources to get started! These are available to Hedgehog Champions, and it’s free to register if you haven’t already. You can access invitations, leaflets, posters and slides for a hedgehog talk. There’s also tips here for engaging with neighbours (just remember to do so safely and in accordance with current covid regulations).