Are wild European hedgehogs endangered and will they become extinct? What can you do to help hedgehogs? These are questions I am frequently asked. So here are the answers.
Hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline. There are now thought to be less than a million hedgehogs left in the UK, compared with around 30 million in the 1950s. The European hedgehog, as the name suggests, is a species found across Europe. It is also declining in other areas. You can read more about some of the reasons for this decline here. This decline is faster in the countryside than in urban areas as a result of factors like pesticide use, habitat loss though hedgerow removal and roads.
Are hedgehogs endangered?
The hedgehog is classified as ‘Vulnerable to extinction’ on Great Britain’s red list for mammals due to the sharp rate of its decline. Hedgehogs are not the only wildlife in the UK that is at risk. According to the State of Nature Report 2019, a quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of the birds assessed are at risk of extinction. The report also highlights that the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Will hedgehogs become extinct?
The sharp rate of the decline of our wild hedgehogs in the UK is a cause for major alarm. If this rate continues, it is likely that there will be smaller and smaller populations of the mammals in the future and fewer sightings. The European hedgehog is, however, found all across Europe. Although it is declining elsewhere, it may not become extinct as a species entirely although numbers are likely to continue to fall dramatically in the UK and elsewhere.
Legal protection for hedgehogs
Hedgehogs do have some degree of legal protection in the UK. This includes:
- Being listed on schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which makes it illegal to kill or capture wild hedgehogs.
- Being listed on the Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996), which prohibits cruel treatment of hedgehogs.
- Being highlighted as a species of ‘principal importance’ under the NERC Act, which is meant to confer a ‘duty of responsibilty’ to public bodies.
- In 2019 new planning laws were introduced to ensure that new housing developments incorporate hedgehog holes to enable hedgehogs to roam freely.
How to help save hedgehogs
You can play your part in preventing further decline in our wild hedgehog populations by helping to make your garden and neighbourhood hedgehog friendly. Key actions include:
- Linking gardens in your area with hedgehog holes.
- Wildlife friendly gardening
- Supplementary feeding
- Providing nesting boxes
- Joining Hedgehog Street
You can also help wildlife by campaigning for improvements to wildlife protection and lobbying the Government for wildlife friendly farming, landscape and house building practices.
I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. Find out more about me here. My work is entirely self funded. If you have found this information useful, please consider supporting my work.
I also make handmade silver nature jewellery to support my hedgehog hospital. Please take a look at my online shop at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com