By David Mackie
A Yorkshire woman who runs a rescue home for injured hedgehogs has said that conservation of the increasingly rare creatures must be improved.
Teresa Marshall, 68, runs the ‘Bilton Hogspital’ from her Harrogate home, and takes in injured hedgehogs from as far north as Newcastle and as far south as Doncaster. She has both indoor and outdoor accommodation for the convalescing hogs.
Research shows that hedgehog numbers in the UK have plummeted from 30 million in the 1950s to around a million today. The key causes are habitat loss and farming intensification, but also due to more fences and walls being put up in gardens, which inhibit the hedgehogs’ foraging area.
Teresa praised the new hedgehog conservation zone that was established in Solihull last week, and said that a similar scheme might work in Leeds.
She said: “The time and funding would have to be put in place, but if every person did a little bit it would all help. It’s a case of getting people on board and getting people interested.”
The Solihull project, created by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust with funding from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, is a 220-acre reserve centred around Solihull’s Elmdon Park. Hedgehog numbers are to be closely monitored in the area, while hedgehog-friendly routes will be created and local people will be shown how to make their gardens more hedgehog-friendly.
Teresa, who has been taking in and caring for injured hedgehogs for 20 years and estimates she has cared for around 2000 individual animals, said the sprawling suburbia of Leeds could be excellent hedgehog habitat with funding and more joined-up thinking.
Teresa’s rescue home is a field hospital on the front line of conservation efforts. Its purpose is strictly to rehabilitate hedgehogs before releasing them back into the wild, but she also spends a lot of her time giving educational talks to groups ranging from schools to WIs to the elderly.
Teresa said: “Education is important. If you let people see hedgehogs, see how beautiful they are – that is part of the battle. Then tell them how to encourage them.”
The hedgehogs are often named after the place they were found, or sometimes the person who found them. The hedgehog above, Knaresborough, is six months old and weighed around 400 grams.
He was one of last year’s ‘autumn orphans’ – hoglets born later in the year who don’t have time to build up sufficient weight to get them through hibernation. Now at a better weight, he will be released back into the wild where he was found when the warm weather returns.
In Solihull, more than 100 “footprint tunnels” have been created to trace where the hedgehogs have been, and hidden cameras have been installed in the area to monitor the presence of the little creatures.