Become a hedgehog hero

One of our most loved mammals, hedgehogs, were put on the IUCN red list as vulnerable to extinction in Great Britain in 2020.

Sadly, our spikey little friends often find themselves injured or in danger, needing some tender, loving care.

Fortunately, there are hedgehog heroes out there, working to rescue, care and rehabilitate hedgehogs when they need help. Hedgehog heroes like Tracy Pierce, who set up Hedgehog Help Prestatyn, and has even written a book to help spread the word, ‘Prickly Pals in Peril!’.

Could you and your learners give a helping hand to a hedgehog, or a hedgehog helpline?

There are 17 species of hedgehog across the world but the one that you might spot culling the pests in your garden is the European hedgehog. A popular and arguably quirky looking creature, hedgehogs have undergone a long decline due to a range of factors including habitat loss, lack of habitat connectivity, and increased traffic.

Sometimes hedgehogs become sick or are injured, often being spotted during the day, and can then be captured and taken to a rescue centre. Rescuing a hedgehog can save its life, and once nursed back to health, many hedgehogs will be successfully released back into the wild.

Hedgehog helplines and rescue centres can be found across Wales, run by dedicated people who do their best to support a healthy hedgehog population. One such person is Tracy Pierce, and this is the story of how she became a Welsh hedgehog hero.

How I became a hedgehog hero      

Tracy tells us, "I was brought up on a farm, in Prestatyn and was a nurse for 32 years. Discovering hedgehogs in the garden where we lived ignited my passion to nurture these amazing mammals.

"Local people who found sickly or injured hedgehogs out in the day, started bringing them to me, but I didn’t really know how to help, so I registered as a carer with the British Hedgehog Preservation society and took a hedgehog care course, at the Vale Wildlife Hospital. I used that knowledge to set up Hedgehog Help Prestatyn, with a great vet on hand and some volunteers.

"In the year 2022-23, we admitted 358 hedgehogs. 160 of them were released back into the wild, but sadly 182 were too poorly and died. Presently, we have 43 hedgehogs in our care and six of these are fostered with a trained carer.

"Hedgehogs are on the red list for extinction in the UK, an awful statement! There are a multitude of factors contributing to this and here are a few:

  • barriers, such as fences, are limiting their access to gardens for food, water, nesting areas and mates
  • hedges where they can make a safe home, are being taken away
  • roads are busier than ever, leading to injury and death
  • hedgehogs get attacked by badgers, foxes, and some dogs
  • they get injured by garden machinery, stuck in litter, netting and down drains
  • they ingest harmful chemicals such as those used for gardening or agriculture
  • climate change is causing wet winters and summer droughts

"All of these are causing hedgehogs to be weakened and less able to cope with diseases and internal parasites.

"I deliver talks to a wide variety of groups, because education and awareness raising is massively important in helping hedgehogs and nature in general, which is intertwined. To support this, I wanted to produce a children’s book, covering the important aspects included in my talks. I linked up with the lovely Joanna Greenwood, from Buckley, and last September our book, Prickly Pals in Peril (ISBN-13 979-8861699969) was published.

"We always try and release hedgehogs back to where they came from, as they will know where their nests, food and water sources are, and most importantly, other hedgehogs, so they can breed.

"For an education setting to be a release site there must be hedgehogs in the area. The hedgehogs will need to be able to move around the area, through holes in fences and hedgehog highways. They need safe access to water like a pond with shallow edges or an access ramp. Ideal habitats are wild areas, hedges, shrubbery, and compost piles. Purpose built hedgehog houses would be ideal, with an all you can eat feeding station nearby. Trail cameras are extremely useful, being great for learners to monitor how the hedgehogs are doing.

"Your setting could become involved with a fabulous project, hedgehog friendly campus. There are great resources, and your setting could achieve awards in caring for hedgehogs."

You can contact Tracy via her website Hedgehog Help Prestatyn, and follow her heroic work on X (Twitter).

For more information on how to support your local hedgehogs, check out British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Hedgehog Street 

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