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.”

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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.

 

A wonderfully wild Ipswich Christmas party!

A big thank you to everyone that came to our Christmas bash at Holywells Park last weekend, we loved having the opportunity to thank our volunteers, champions and event participants for their involvement this year, and to introduce our work to some new faces.

The event kicked off with a speech from Ipswich mayor, Sarah Barber, introducing the brilliant work many organisations across the town do for wildlife, and to celebrate some of the work SWT have been doing in Ipswich: our hedgehog project and Closer to Nature project.

 

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Myself and Lucy with Ipswich Mayor, Sarah Barber

Closer to Nature is a three year project that aims to inspire a new generation of young naturalists, headed up by Ipswich education ranger, Lucy Shepherd. We were excited to share our project successes and aims for the coming year. Amazingly, between our two projects, we have had a contribution of 1419 hours contributed by volunteers, and their time and expertise have been invaluable in the delivery of these projects, an equivalent of an amazing 203 working days!

We followed the mayors speech with mince pies and cakes, tree decoration crafts, bird feeder making, quizzes and trails, and we were lucky enough to also be joined by Greenways Project, Ipswich Wildlife Group and Friends of Holywells Park who were creating wildlife homes and other festive crafts (such as amazing wooden reindeer) and providing much needed hot drinks on this crisp winters day!

 

A very festive day all round!

A big thank you for everyone involved with our projects to date, and we look forward to seeing you at our events and activities next year!

 

Wildlife ambassador Autumn activities!

Last week myself and Urban Buzz Officer David headed to Sidegate Primary School for some Autumn activities – hedgehog house building and wild flower sowing! We welcomed two new wildlife ambassadors from year 1 to replace those that had moved to secondary school this year, and split the group into two, with each having a go at one activity before swapping over. Two hedgehog houses were built, and lots of wild flowers sown!

 The wildlife ambassadors in action – photos by Matt Brown

Houses were built in two sheltered locations in which we had located hedgehog footprints earlier in the year, and the perrenial wild flower seeds were sown along a large strip that had been cleared by a JCB earlier in the week. Seeds were distributed in handfulls of sand, and the ambassadors will be ensuring they keep well watered in the coming weeks. Let’s hope they attract lots of pollinators and bring a real urban buzz to the school grounds! The top layer of grass and soil removed has been heaped in the corner ready for a new project for the wildlife ambassadors – the creation of a large hibernaculum.

We carefully arranged bricks, an old roofing tile and lots of logs along two fence lines, then gathered lots of fallen oak leaves to make sure the structures were nice and camouflage. It might be a bit late for hedgehogs to use this winter, but who knows, perhaps it will be found next year!

More information about the Urban Buzz project can be found here and tips for helping hedgehogs in the Autumn, here.

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Highways for Ipswich MP Sandy Martin

Last week myself and colleague Olly met our Labour MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin. Sandy has recently confirmed his commitment to local environmental issues by signing the Greener UK MP’s Environment Pledge and was also keen to support our local hedgehog campaign. We took the opportunity to visit Sandys garden to ensure it was nice and hedgehog friendly, and created two hedgehog-sized holes in his fences, linking Sandys garden to his two neighbours.

Lack of access to gardens is a major issue for hedgehogs and every new hedgehog fence hole adds much needed habitat.

Sandy has assured us he’ll be on the look out for visiting hedgehogs, and will continue to keep his garden nice and ‘hog friendly!

Hibernating hedgehogs – how can you help at this time of year?

The leaves are turning amazing colours and the temperature certainly feels to be dropping. It’s that time of year again, the nights are drawing in and hedgehogs will be beginning to think about bedding down for the winter.

Hibernation is a flexible process and is influenced by temperature. Hedgehogs tend to begin hibernation when it is consistently below 10 degrees. Although it feels chilly to us, this weeks average temperatures are actually between 13-16 degrees, so there’s still time for hedgehogs to fatten up and prepare for the winter ahead.

There’s a few things you can do to help hedgehogs prepare at this time of year. Ensuring there are nesting and feeding opportunities in your garden will certainly help. Log piles, large shrubs and gaps under sheds are all places that hedgehogs are likely to  be scouting out as potential nesting sites. Keeping leaves on the ground, rather than tidying them away, and building wild areas with log piles will be a huge help. Hedgehogs need lots of medium sized leaves (oak and beech size) to gather for their nest.

                                Log piles, wild areas and leaf piles around Ipswich

Log and leaf piles will also encourage the invertebrates hedgehogs will be snuffling about trying to find. You can give them a helping hand by leaving out a dish of meaty cat or dog food, and a shallow dish of water. This will be especially helpful for young hoglets needing to gain weight to survive the winter.

You could even try building a nest site for a hedgehog. There are some great guides out there, I particularly like Wildlife Gadget mans How-to guides. He has a brick design and plastic box design.

                       Here are some hedgehog houses already in-situ around Ipswich

Remember, any time of year is good for creating Hedgehog Highways. Why not take some time over the Autumn to ensure hedgehogs can wander into your garden? Hedgehog holes are very easy to make, and will ensure your garden is accessible for a foraging or nesting hedgehog!

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Let us know if you have made a Hedgehog Highway. Ipswich residents that send a photo to hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org can receive a free Hedgehog Street Hedgehog Highway plaque to display in their garden. Keep logging your hedgehog sightings too. Head to our online map, here.

 

Mammal Detectives – looking for signs of hedgehogs and other elusive critters!

Last week we headed to Alexandra Park in Ipswich to look for signs of hedgehogs and other small mammals!

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The evening before, myself and hedgehog volunteer Ian ventured around the park in search of good spots for our footprint tunnels. We set out ten in total, running along fence lines and hedgerows around the perimeter of the park.

Once these were set we had a good old rummage in the foliage in search of signs of latrines and feeding signs of small mammals. As you might expect, we had a few confused looks from local dog walkers, which, after explaining what we were doing, didn’t always seem less confused by the situation.

The next morning myself and a group of local families went round the park to see if the footprint tunnels had been used, and to see what other signs of mammals we could find.

Eight out of ten tunnels were full of small mammal footprints and droppings. We found old field vole feeding remains amongst the long grass (and a beautiful wasp spider!), a wood mouse food store in the hollow of a tree, nuts cracked open and pine cones nibbled by squirrels.

Unfortunately we didn’t find any signs of hedgehog this time – fingers crossed for our next park detective event in October half term. We’ll be looking for signs of hedgehogs and other mammals in Chantry Park on Tuesday 24th October. Spaces are limited so please book onto this event by heading to our website here.

 

 

How to make a hedgehog footprint tunnel

Footprint tunnels are probably the best way to detect hedgehogs, they are easy to make and are lots of fun to use! Why not have a go at making one to see what wildlife is visiting your garden? This is a quick guide, but more detail can be found in the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society survey handbook.

Making footprint tunnels3Step 1. Sheets of short flute (4mm) corrugated plastic (dimensions: 123x100cm) can be purchased online. One sheet with the above dimensions will make one footprint tunnel.

Step 2. A section measuring 21cm wide and 100cm long should be cut away from the rest, using a Stanley knife. This will be the insert panel that will contain the food, ink and paper. The remainder of the sheet can be split equally into four sections (each section roughly measuring 100cm x 25.5cm) and scored with something pointed but not sharp (you don’t want to cut these, just bend). Bend along each of these lines to make the pyramid shaped tunnel that can be seen in the middle photo below.

 

Making footprint tunnels

Step 3. Strips of Velcro can now be attached to hold the tunnel into the pyramid shape. Paper can be paper clipped to each end of the insert panel and masking tape wrapped around the panel above the plain paper at each end. The masking tape strip is where the ink should be painted. Ink can be made my mixing food grade carbon powder with vegetable oil.

We have footprint tunnels and wildlife cameras available for Ipswich residents to borrow. For more information, head to our website pages here.