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Research: The success of Hedgehog Street

8th November 2021
By Anina Day

A new study has shown the successes and challenges of the Hedgehog Street campaign, revealing its achievements over the ten years since its launch. The study was jointly funded by People’s Trust for Endangered Species and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Hedgehog highway
Photo by Sarah Aston

The researchers Abigail Gazzard, Anne Boushall, Emma Brand and Philip Baker, from University of Reading, used online questionnaires to gather information from both Hedgehog Champions and non-Champions. It was advertised in relevant social media groups and sent to Hedgehog Champions by email.

The questionnaire received almost 6,000 responses, making it the largest study of this type about hedgehog highways.

Highway help

Highways can help hedgehogs in three different ways: let them into inaccessible gardens, reduce how far they have to travel to forage for food, therefore saving energy, and reduce the number of road crossings they need to make. Previous studies have shown that hedgehogs can visit up to 20 gardens per night, which means that the more highways there are in one area, the more help they can provide local hedgehog populations.

The new study revealed that Hedgehog Champions each created 1.69 highways on average. This adds up to over 120,000 hedgehog highways, which is an astounding number. 54% of Champions who created hedgehog highways reported a subsequent increase in hedgehog activity, showing how important these small holes are for our hedgehogs.

Hedgehog highway
Photo by Jill Kynaston

Successes and challenges

Although many highways have been created, only 48% of surveyed Champions have managed to add one in their garden, and this is due to a variety of reasons. The most common reason given was that the garden was already accessible to hedgehogs, and neighbour-related concerns came in second. Luckily the survey showed that only 5% of gardens are thought to be inaccessible for hedgehogs, meaning that there’s the potential for many more hedgehog highways to be created.

Reasons given by householders for not having created a hedgehog highway.

It’s understandable that talking to neighbours was a concern, which is why we make posters, introduction letters and invitations available to Hedgehog Champions, to help kick-start conversations.

The study did find that, of the Hedgehog Champions who had created hedgehog highways in their own gardens, 38% successfully recruited at least one other household to create a hedgehog highway, showing that discussions with neighbours can have positive effects.

Community hedgehog highway
Photo by Paragon Community Garden

The likelihood of people creating a hedgehog highway varied significantly with other factors. Highways were more likely to have been added to a household when the person had lived there for over 6 years, had other wildlife friendly features in the garden, were aware of Hedgehog Street, had seen hedgehogs in their garden, placed importance on watching wildlife and fed hedgehogs.

If people had other wildlife friendly features in their garden, such as ponds or log piles, the likelihood of them having a hedgehog highway almost doubled. This suggests that a majority of respondents to the survey are inherently wildlife friendly and therefore not a random sample of the UK population. The awareness of the Hedgehog Street campaign was the most important factor influencing whether householders decided to create a highway, showing the significant success of the campaign.

hedgehog street promotion
Hedgehog Officer Grace raising awareness

Moving forward

We’ve learned some useful lessons. Moving forward, we need to understand how to appeal to households which are not wildlife friendly, explain the benefits of multiple highways, and understand householders’ reservations about making a highway. More research also needs to be undertaken into hedgehogs’ behaviour when moving about and any threats of predation in urban areas. Emphasis also needs to be placed on engaging developers and landlords with the campaign – a really important task as many more houses are being built across the country

Although up to 120,000 hedgehog highways have been created, this represents only 1.1% of UK households with a garden, so there is clearly still a long way to go. Despite this, the Hedgehog Street campaign has had some wonderful successes, and we couldn’t do that without you, our amazing Hedgehog Champions!