Meeting ‘Alexander’ rings alarm bells on hedgehogs’ survival

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Meeting ‘Alexander’ rings alarm bells on hedgehogs’ survival

by Pete Moore, Director Forest & Beach, October 2017

Whilst carrying bottles recently at the Stokenham Apple Fayre, a juvenile hedgehog made an appearance. Well, actually, I nearly stepped on the poor thing. It was curled up, fast asleep on the paving stones next to the telephone exchange. Realising that it was asleep in the wrong place and therefore at risk, the new bug hotel of pallets and straw seemed like a great location for new hedgehog accommodation. Safely tucked up in straw I thought, “job done, have a great hibernation and maybe see you in the spring”. How naive of me. After 15 mins, while busily setting up for apple pressing, I cast an eye on the bug hotel to see the immature hedgehog stumbling around the grass, disorientated at its new surroundings. Picking it up it gave out a squeak, presumably for its mother and I realised our new, well meaning home, would not suffice.

A quick google directed me to the South Devon Hedgehog Sanctuary, Kingskerswell (about an hour away). I phoned the number for advice, secretly hoping it would be a “pop it back into the straw bedded bug hotel and all will be well.” It was not to be. Steph at the end of the phone said she could take it in (after checking their were no other hedgehog family members around). So a Friday evening drive saw us arrive at Steph’s garage – which was full of warm boxes with other ‘patients’. Straightaway she expertly teased out the fly eggs and ticks, which would soon have finished off the poor thing, and then took down important details. After clarifying the location of the hedgehog’s discovery, and identifying it as a male, Steph quickly wrote ‘Alexander Bell’ as a fitting name. We discussed the plight of hedgehogs in the UK and the stark reality of their decline. Surely one of the most loved mammals in this country, it is unthinkable that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle could soon become extinct in the UK. According to recent surveys hedgehog numbers have dropped dramatically from an estimated 30 million in the 1950’s to under 1 million today – with a third of this loss in the last decade. Reasons for this loss possibly include loss of habitat, intensive farming, road deaths, slug pellets, and badgers are also known to eat hedgehogs. To me, there is a certain irony that the very creature that could control slugs and other gardeners pests for free is being harmed by bought in control. However, according to recent surveys people are keen to help this loveable mammal by making homes, putting holes in the bottoms of fences, reducing slug pellet use and checking bonfires before lighting. We have also heard of our local police, when out on late patrols, stopping to help them across the road.

We left Alexander in the very capable hands of Steph and we will keep in touch on progress. We will also be making a donation to the Sanctuary. Steph later texted to say he was eating well – a good sign 🙂

So a stumbling find led to a very interesting evening and more learning about our wonderful wildlife in the UK which we should never take for granted. I hope Mrs Tiggy-Winkle approves.

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