Elastic bands littering the streets of our study area

Whilst myself, Chloe and Sarah have been walking the streets of our study area,  we have noticed an issue with elastic bands. They appear to be everywhere! In just the past few weeks my pocket has been getting progressively wetter and muddier as we have been plucking these from the street, away from all those hedgehogs emerging from hibernation, and to which they pose a bit of a hazard!

Today I decided it was time to empty the pocket and count how many we had found so far…a grand total of 81. This obviously isn’t a new issue – there have been several petitions in the past few years with regards to littered elastic bands, the Royal Mail, and the negative impact these bits of litter can have on wildlife, including hedgehogs!

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Rubber bands can injure or even kill hedgehogs, and although I’m sure no-one drops them on purpose, it is something we should all be a bit more careful about. The Royal Mail do have guidance it provides to it’s workers on the matter, which you can see here, but a chat to the local sorting office might be useful too. This is an example of a hedgehog hazard that can be easily reduced by the actions of the individual, much like the creation of hedgehog fence holes and wild areas in our gardens. Collectively, we can make a positive impact!

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Young leader hedgehog championing!

I love hearing stories about the work of our hedgehog champions across Ipswich. They are doing a brilliant job in raising awareness and promoting action across the town.

Rowan is a 15 year old hedgehog champion, currently studying for his GCSEs. In amongst his revision he has been preparing for a hedgehog themed session with his scouts group, as a young leader.

He gave a talk about hedgehog ecology, the threats they face and the simple actions that can be taken in gardens and neighbourhoods, mixed in with some fab activities to get the group thinking about hedgehogs. The scouts were tested with a true/false quiz and an activity to get the blood pumping: exercise up and down the hall to guess how far they thought a hedgehog would travel in a night. I think lots of people are still surprised to hear a hedgehog can travel ~2km in just one night!

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Rowan is now chatting with the scout assistant district commissioner about running further activities later in the year. Excellent work championing hedgehogs Rowan!

If you would like to champion hedgehogs for your Ipswich street, head to our website here, for more information and to sign up! If you aren’t based in Ipswich, but are keen to help, remember you can sign up to the national campaign Hedgehog Street. Head to their website here, for more information!

A hello to our new hedgehog interns

Now that we have begun field work for the Spring 2018 season, we have two lovely new interns that have joined Team Hedgehog here in Ipswich. It’s brilliant to have the enthusiasm of both Sarah and Chloë on board, helping us better understand the ecology of hedgehogs, and how to measure their populations in an urban setting. I have asked both to write a little introduction about themselves, so I will digitally hand over to them…

Hedgehog interns sarah and chloe!Left: Sarah, Right: Chloë

“My name is Sarah Kilshaw and I am a wildlife conservation and the environment graduate (I still call myself a graduate even though I left Writtle University College in May 2017) and I grew up in Ipswich. I am passionate about wildlife and especially the wildlife of urban areas! One of my earliest memories of wildlife is of seeing a family of hedgehogs in my garden and this is one of the many memories of wildlife that have been scattered through my childhood that sparked my love of wildlife as an adult. I was eager to be involved in the hedgehog work in Ipswich because I want to know more about this elusive species that seemed to be common in my childhood yet so infrequent the older I get.

I have volunteered with a number of conservation groups in Ipswich including Suffolk Wildlife Trust and this has led me to my current job as a Casual Wildlife and Education Ranger with Ipswich Borough Council. As part of my job I do a lot of practical habitat management but I really wanted to get stuck into some survey work and I am so excited to be involved with the hedgehog project in Ipswich and learn so much more about the habits of these sweet, snuffly little animals that sneak into our gardens and our hearts! I confess that I am by far an expert with hedgehogs but I am so keen to learn and explore more about these cute little animals and hope that the work I do in the following months will make a difference to the future hedgehogs of Ipswich.”

Chloe:

“I remember the first time I saw a hedgehog: it was in my garden when I was about eight years old. Thinking back, it was probably the closest I had ever been to a wild animal at the time, and I was struck by its confidence it was probably after the cat’s food! Hedgehogs are a species that hold a special place in the heart of the British public, and I am excited to have the opportunity to take part in conservation research that could help prevent the decline of such a fascinating species.

After graduating in Bioveterinary Science from the University of Liverpool last year, I am so grateful to have the chance to work with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust on such an interesting project, developing skills that will definitely help me in my future career in conservation research!”

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We are now a few weeks into the Nottingham Trent study and have battled the beast from the east, the mini-beast from the east and some numb fingers and toes. With permission to place a wildlife camera needed for 120 randomly-selected points, we’ve knocked on over 100 doors, walked 126km, met lots of lovely (and interesting!) people, and have nearly reached our target! Stay tuned to hear how we get on in the coming months.

 

Hedgehog habits day 1 – the beast from the east!

Yesterday was the first day of our hedgehog habit activities this spring – and the snow made it feel rather intrepid (and a bit weird, when thinking about hedgehog surveys!)

This Spring we are carrying out field work in a study area in North East Ipswich as part of a wider project across the UK run by Nottingham Trent University. This is the second year we have taken part in the research, which is looking to validate a method for estimating hedgehog population density, with Ipswich being one of several of the urban sites selected across the country. See more information about this collaborative project here. Whilst we know hedgehog numbers are certainly declining, estimating hedgehog densities across different habitats is difficult and this method will help contribute to national efforts to better understand hedgehogs and how to monitor their populations.

Day 1 of field work = delivery of the leaflets to get garden owners on board.  We need to persuade 120 randomly selected garden owners to have a wildlife camera installed in their garden. The current weather (dubbed the Beast from the East in local media) was going against my need to get to the study area, and the dodgy roads meant I had to grab my thermals and boot up to head out in the snow to walk to the study site.

 

It was great to get to the study area and start to imagine where we might be finding hedgehogs later in the spring  – I’ll be in this part of town most days now for the next three months, so will soon know these streets very well! There weren’t very many cars on the road but the streets were busy with children having snow fights and being pulled along in sleds. I LOVE snow and it felt very festive, especially coming across whitened trees full of mistletoe, and what I believe were several lovely fieldfare!

Day 1 complete = 10 miles walked = 55 leaflets distributed. I think I’m going to quite easily hit any daily steps targets this Spring… stay tuned to hear how we get on in the coming months!

 

A tour of Holywells Park!

Today I was lucky enough to help promote the work of Suffolk Wildlife Trust and our Ipswich hedgehog project, to the mayor and sheriff of Norwich (David Fullman & David Walker), and mayor of Ipswich (Sarah Barber), who were visiting Holywells Park on a grand tour of the town.

The tour was led by Richard Sharp, Community Engagement & Volunteer Officer at Ipswich Borough Council, who heads up the Heritage Lottery Funded project at Holywells Park. Here are the group alongside the amazing hedgehog sculpture, made by the Holywells Creative Art Collective (and recently named ‘Stickle’ as part of a competition launched late last year).

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It was brilliant to learn more about the history and heritage of Holywells Park, and promote the contribution of the trust in engaging park visitors with wildlife too. Suffolk Wildlife Trust regularly collaborate with the council, friends of group, Ipswich Wildlife Group, Buglife and Greenways in running wildlife events in the park. Our Closer to Nature work, ran by our Ipswich education ranger, Lucy, has also been amazing in inspiring a new generation of young naturalists, through her young wardens group, wildlife watch and skills courses at Holywells (and across Ipswich!). Our hedgehog work has encouraged residents near the park to get involved with hedgehog conservation action, with our hedgehog footprint tunnel surveys, night walks and events promoting the use of our night cameras in Ipswich gardens and the implementation of holes in garden fences!

On a whistle stop tour of the park highlighting the heritage, community, health and wildlife benefits of the Heritage Lottery funded project at the park, we stopped off in one of the wildlife areas to highlight some great habitat (including some excellent bramble, prime for hibernating hedgehogs!) and some of the contributions made by volunteers. Just yesterday Lucy and I had worked with local families to begin building a giant bug hotel (which of course had a lovely hedgehog nesting section beneath) as part of our Wildlife Homes event with Friends of Holywells, Ipswich wildlife group and Greenways.

Keep an eye on our facebook page (Suffolk Wildlife Trust in Ipswich) or What’s On, for upcoming wildlife activities in green spaces across Ipswich!

 

New hedgehog report rings true in Suffolk

Just yesterday a new report highlighted our most up to date understanding of hedgehog population trends – our press release can be found below!

Towns like Ipswich are becoming increasingly important refuges for hedgehogs as rural populations continue to decline.

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A new report published by British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species has found the number of hedgehogs in rural landscapes is continuing to fall. In contrast, it shows that the rate of decline in towns and cities is slowing, and might even be improving.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 is a follow up to the 2015 report and brings together research from three surveys and the report draws on data from Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s own county-based survey. The full report can be read here.

In 2016, backed by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), Suffolk Wildlife Trust launched a campaign to make Ipswich the most hedgehog friendly town in the UK. This came after previous county-wide surveys indicated encouraging numbers in and around the town centre. Since then, hedgehog officer Ali North has been galvanizing support and recruiting ‘hedgehog champions’ who are urging their friends and neighbours to link up gardens and create networks of ‘Hedgehog Highways’ where hedgehogs can move through safely.

Although urban hedgehog populations declined by up to a third since 2000, the news that this fall may be stabilising is hugely welcomed and a cause for celebration and thanks to all who are helping hedgehogs where they live. Ali welcomed the news saying: “It’s really promising to see that the fortunes of urban hedgehog populations could be improving, and that the simple actions individuals are taking, really are making a difference. There are lots of ways the residents of Ipswich can help hedgehogs in their own gardens and streets, from creating a hedgehog-sized hole in a fence, to championing hedgehogs and encouraging neighbours to link their gardens too! Come along to a talk, workshop or hedgehog survey this summer to learn more about the plight of this well-loved British species, and how we can collectively make a positive impact for local hedgehog populations.”

Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for the national Hedgehog Street campaign added: “We are really encouraged to see projects like the Ipswich hedgehog project raising awareness of hedgehog decline and what people can do to help them. Suffolk Wildlife Trust is doing fantastic work to promote hedgehog conservation through the creation of Hedgehog Highways in Ipswich, allowing hedgehogs to roam through the night.  Emily continued: “This is a great example of community engagement which is what Hedgehog Street is all about! Hedgehog Street, run by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species & the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, aims to ensure that hedgehogs, the UK’s only spiny mammal, remains a common and familiar part of British life, and Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s work is certainly helping us to spread the word.”

Integral to Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s efforts to turn around the fortunes of hedgehogs in Ipswich and more widely in Suffolk, has been the collection of sightings records, and this is as important now as it ever has been. The more records collected, the more the Trust can do to identify areas where conservation action should be targeted and feed Suffolk data into national findings, like this report. Ali is now collecting habitat as well as sightings data, she said: “We need to hear about the actions you are already taking – you can log hedgehog friendly gardens on our online map, and tell us more about your Hedgehog Highways, wild areas and nest boxes.” Submit your hedgehog-friendly garden records and hedgehog sightings, here.

To date the campaign has enjoyed wide support. Last year a giant hedgehog mural was created in the town centre by street artist ATM and BBC Suffolk’s breakfast show host Mark Murphy launched the initiative live on air. Hearing of the report he said: “I’m thrilled that the work we’ve done alongside the Suffolk Wildlife Trust to raise awareness of the plight of the hedgehog is working. More and more people are now making holes in their fences to enable the hedgehogs to move from garden to garden. Lots more hedgehog hotels are installed in peoples gardens too. But we can’t rest on our laurels. If we want this wonderful animal to survive we must keep looking out for them and continue to give them a helping hand.”

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The campaign has enjoyed parliamentary support too, with MP for Ipswich Sandy Martin recently adding a hedgehog hole to his wildlife friendly garden in the town.

We need to talk about the countryside

However, it’s not all good news and as the report highlights, numbers of hedgehogs are still declining at a concerning rate in the wider countryside. Several reasons are cited for this, such as intensive agricultural practices that lead to fewer hedgerows and sources of food, pressure from roads, and predation. Suffolk Wildlife Trust works closely with farmers and landowners to encourage good environmental practices, and a growing number of land managers are embracing wildlife-friendly approaches to farming and seeing increased numbers of farmland birds, arable plants and invertebrates. The Trust is now hopeful that changes outlined in the Government’s recent 25 Year Plan for the Environment will translate into tangible actions that embrace a landscape-scale approach to conservation and encourage species like hedgehog back into the countryside. At a national level, with approximately 70% of land in the UK managed by farmers, BHPS and PTES are planning to engage more closely with the farming community, as Emily Wilson highlights: “Farmers play a vital role in producing food, but they’re also well placed to help protect, maintain and enhance our countryside. The Government recently reiterated plans to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy to reward landowners for delivering environmental benefits. Many farmers already have a sustainable approach to agriculture, and we think there’s a great opportunity to work more widely with them to stem the alarming decline of our country hedgehogs.”

Hedgehog workshops – a chance to learn about hoggy habits!

Whilst our lovely spiny friends may be tucked up for the winter, there’s still plenty of opportunities to learn about these enigmatic creatures and to find out how you can help them in your own gardens and streets! We’re running a number of hedgehog workshops in the coming months, and with thanks to our funders Heritage Lottery and British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they are all free to attend! Spaces are limited so do require pre-booking on our website, here.

The first of our workshops is being held on Sunday 25th February in Ipswich Museum and is looking at the habits of hedgehogs in gardens throughout the year, and how they might use different features in different seasons. This workshop will be ran by myself, Ali North, and Paula Baker, co-founder of Suffolk Prickles Rescue Centre. The course will also cover when wild hedgehogs may need extra help, and when it’s actually best to leave the hedgehog to its own devices!

We have a number of gardening for hedgehogs workshops planned for 2018, with the first being run at the People’s Community Garden in Maidenhall allotments on Saturday 3rd March. You’ll be able to learn all about the features of a garden that hedgehogs love, how to reduce hazards, and how any style garden can be made hedgehog friendly!

Lastly for Spring we have a Hedgehog Torchlight Tour, again at the People’s Community Garden, but this time we’ll be exploring the garden in search of these prickly critters under the cover of darkness! Armed with torches, thermal imaging and our night vision monocular, we’ll be on the look out for hedgehogs after an evening talk about the ecology of this species, hot drinks and chatter in the CRESS pavilion.

All of these workshops are free, but do require pre-booking on our website, here. Spaces are limited, so book them whilst you can!

Image by  Tero Laakso, CC BY 2.0.

We’re looking for a hedgehog intern for Spring 2018!

Salary: Voluntary position – unpaid

Closing date: Monday 5th February 2018

Location: Around Ipswich

Suffolk Wildlife Trust is looking for an enthusiastic voluntary intern to join our Ipswich Hedgehog Project. The intern will assist with a specific research project aiming to estimate hedgehog population density at our second study site in Ipswich, which is part of a larger study being run by Nottingham Trent University. You will work alongside our Ipswich Hedgehog Officer, Ali North and will be a valuable addition to the conservation team.

Closing date: Monday 5th February 2018

Interviews: Tuesday 13th February 2018

Start date: Monday 26th February 2018

Where you’ll be working: In and around Ipswich.

What you’ll be doing: The beginning of the internship will involve sourcing field sites for inclusion in further fieldwork, through undertaking garden visits, alongside our Hedgehog Officer, to check for hedgehog suitability (26th February – 1st April).

Night hedgehog surveys (11pm – 4am, between 1st April and 15th April) will provide the opportunity to learn how to detect hedgehogs using torchlight surveys and radio tracking during our mark recapture study. Further radio tracking (April 15th onwards) will take place to monitor and retrieve data from tagged animals and garden visits for camera trap deployment and retrieval will take place between 21st April and 20th May, followed by data collation and camera trap footage analysis (up to 1st June).
You will gain skills in science communication, the use of camera traps for scientific study and a range of hedgehog survey techniques. There may also be the opportunity to assist with public engagement and educational events.
The time you need to give:  We are looking for a minimum commitment of 15 hours per week, for a three -month period. The internship will begin the week of 26th February, and finish on 1st June 2018, with the possibility of extension. Flexibility will be important; tasks will vary from evening and weekend work (Garden visits 26th February – 1st April) to nights (Hedgehog surveys 1st April – 15th April), and Saturday, Sunday and Mondays for camera trap deployment and retrieval (21st April – 20th May). Data collation will take place during normal office hours (Mon-Fri 21st May – 1st June).
The skills you need: We are looking for an individual with a positive, friendly attitude and excellent communication skills.
What you’ll get out of it: This position would be suitable for someone looking to gain experience in the conservation sector, or for someone with a genuine interest in wildlife research and conservation. You will gain experience in assisting in conservation research, science communication and hedgehog survey techniques. The project will contribute to local travel costs.

Contact details: Please send your CV and covering letter to Ali North, Ipswich Hedgehog Officer ali.north@suffolkwildlifetrust.org, detailing your availability, experience and why you would like to join our project. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

All applications must be received by Monday 5th February 2018.