Hailsham residents encouraged to observe Hedgehog Awareness Week

Have you seen hedgehogs in your garden or nearby public open spaces? Would you like to help them to flourish locally?
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Hailsham Town Council is supporting hedgehog conservation in the parish by promoting in advance Hedgehog Awareness Week, a national campaign where people across the country are encouraged to make space for hedgehogs in their gardens and neighbourhood.

Taking place from May 5 to 11, Hedgehog Awareness Week is an event that takes place every year with the aim to raise awareness of hedgehogs and their declining population in the UK.

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Established by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to highlight the threats facing hedgehogs, the campaign promotes efforts to protect and conserve the wildlife species - and how we can help these much-loved creatures. The Society also undertakes funding research that provides important new insights into the welfare and protection of hedgehogs.

Hailsham Country Park hedgehog habitat.Hailsham Country Park hedgehog habitat.
Hailsham Country Park hedgehog habitat.

Why save hedgehogs?

Saving hedgehogs is crucial for ecological, conservation and educational reasons, and by working to protect hedgehogs, we can go some way towards helping to ensure that a healthier and more sustainable world for hedgehogs and other native wildlife species is provided:

  • Hedgehogs play an important role in maintaining biodiversity in their ecosystems, helping to control the population of slugs, snails and other pests which can cause damage to gardens and flora.
  • Hedgehogs help to maintain balance in their ecosystems and are an important part of the food chain.
  • The hedgehog population is declining due to habitat loss, climate change and other threats. By protecting the hedgehog population, we will be able to help prevent their extinction and preserve a unique part of our natural heritage in the process.

This year, a new community group - Hedgehogs4Hailsham - is working towards 'making Hailsham the most hedgehog friendly town in Britain' and, like The BHPT, the group is asking people in Hailsham and surrounding areas to welcome hedgehogs (and other wildlife) by creating space for them in their own gardens and green spaces.

How can we help hedgehogs?

According to Hedgehogs4Hailsham, there are lots of wildlife-friendly features that can be added in green spaces (and hazards that can be avoided) that can make an area especially welcoming to such wildlife:

  • Hedgehog highways allow vital access to more habitat - they need 13cm x 13cm square gaps in the bottom of boundary walls and fences ensure hedgehogs can get in and out easily (this is important as enclosed fences are trapping hedgehogs and denying them sufficient food and access to mates).
  • Log piles, leaf piles, wild corners and edges will attract natural food and offer shelter for hedgehogs.
  • Water is vital for all wildlife and can be scarce, especially during hot spells. Make sure there are always several clean shallow bowls of water in the garden for hedgehogs.
  • Ponds or pools are great for wildlife but do ensure there are escape routes – a sloping edge, ramp or half-submerged rock for hedgehogs to scramble out on.
  • Cover any drains and deep holes.
  • Make sure an easy route out of ponds and pools is put in place.
  • Check all areas thoroughly before mowing or strimming.
  • Build a hedgehog home or shelter.
  • Avoid using pesticides and other toxic substances in your garden.
  • Ensure that any litter in your garden or neighbourhood is picked up, so hedgehogs don't get trapped.
  • Netting can become entangled in hedgehog spines, so ensure that sports nets are put away and garden netting is raised 30cm off the ground so hedgehogs can safely pass under.
  • Always carefully check for hedgehogs and other wildlife before lighting a bonfire pile.
  • If you find a hedgehog in need of help contact www.wildlifeambulance.org or www.help4hedgehogs.com (based in Herstmonceux).
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"I love Hailsham, and I am working to raise awareness of how we can help wildlife (especially hedgehogs) in the town and surrounding areas," said Gill Howson, founder of Heldgehogs4Hailsham. "I want to encourage everyone to take action and in particular to create hedgehog highways in any enclosed fences. It will make such a difference to the chances of our favoured wildlife.

"If you do make a highway or spot a hedgehog, please log it via the Big Hedgehog Map. Wouldn't it be great if Hailsham prickled with hogs on the map?"

Cllr Mary Laxton, Chair of the Town Council's Assets Management and Neighbourhood Planning Committees commented: "Sadly, hedgehog population numbers are in decline and it's estimated that urban populations have fallen by around a third over the past twenty or so years. While hedgehogs generally prefer to live in countryside habitats such as woodland and hedgerows, unfortunately these are dwindling, and many hedgehogs are living in urban gardens and green areas.

"Many people are unsure as to how these vulnerable animals can be helped - and this is where Hedge Awareness Week comes in and how we can make a difference in the run up to the event and afterwards.

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"The Hailsham Neighbourhood Plan, of which I have been instrumental in producing over the years, is due to be updated following the release of Wealden District Council's Draft Local Plan, and proposed wildlife policies within the document will also be reviewed and updated accordingly."

Cllr Laxton added: "Regarding hedgehogs in particular, the revised Neighbourhood Plan will try to ensure that all future new-build sites are accessible to the animals. Habitat fragmentation is one of the key factors resulting in the declining hedgehog population that we are now witnessing. Hedgehog highways can help to rectify this issue, as the introduction of small gaps in new fences allow hedgehogs to access gardens, which in turn provide vital foraging and nesting habitats.

"Ultimately, much of this is a planning issue from which, when we review our Neighbourhood Plan again soon, we can adapt our policies accordingly to ensure hedgehog highways are factored into future development in the town."

For further information, visit [email protected] (Gill4wildlife).