Hedgehog spotting

Posted: Wednesday 7 November 2012
by Richard Jones

There has been much woe expressed about the dramatic decline in hedgehogs, so I was pleased to hear some good news about them recently.

Hedgehog on a lawn

The last time I saw a hedgehog was in September 2010. It was dead at the side of the East Rochester Way near Eltham - a sad indictment of the increasing conflict between humans and nature. 

There has been much woe expressed about the dramatic decline in these charming and curious creatures, especially in the suburban gardens where they previously made regular appearances. Even last month, Adam Pasco was bemoaning their absence from his own garden. So I was pleased to hear some good news about them recently.

There has always been a sparse population of hedgehogs in south-east London. I used to see them regularly when I lived on the Peckham/Camberwell borders (I claimed I lived in Peckham, but for the woman in the top flat it was Camberwell). The large gardens around Grove Park and Chadwick Road were rambling and many were overgrown - making perfect secret nature reserves. Returning home late from the cinema or theatre, I would often come across a hedgepig or two snuffling along the pavement, or rootling about under a cotoneaster bush in someone’s front garden.

I’ve only ever picked up a hedgehog on one occasion - it’s a mistake most people make no more than once. It has nothing to do with the sharp prickles. As long as you’re gentle, handling a hedgehog is no more uncomfortable than holding a large handful of nails. No, it’s the fleas. Hedgehogs are home to hedgehog fleas, Archaeopsylla erinacei, and loads of ’em. And if you pick up a hedgehog, the flees start hopping out onto your arm before you can say Mrs Tiggywinkle. I doubt they’d do much harm, apart from the odd bite, but the sheer number of them is rather unnerving. Hedgehogs, of course, can’t groom their defensive spikes, so they have to suffer their infestations in ignominious silence.

So, what was that good news? Well, at a recent biodiversity meeting in Lewisham, several people reported seeing hedgehogs. There have been regular sightings along Devonshire Road. This is, perhaps, no coincidence. There was much discussion about whether a drop-off in slug-pellet use might be encouraging hedgehogs. Or had the wet summer delivered up a bumper slug crop for them?

Or was it the fact that a railway line with broad, partly wooded embankments ran through this part of the borough? Come to think of it, this is part of the same rail network that runs through Peckham and Camberwell too.

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Talkback: Hedgehog spotting
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rowena2188yahoocom 09/11/2012 at 21:04

I have two lovely ones in my garden, I feed them on dog meat with a tray of water at the side, I took this shot one evening, I was amazed to find two there,I think one must have told the other one, Hey! I had chicken last night so come with me,Problem is I now have to sit in garden to keep the cats from eating the food,I have used a old peat bag with straw and paper inside but don't think they are using it , maureen ,cambridge

Sharon Beale 09/11/2012 at 21:19

I have one in my garden that we feed with cat food. It also has a regular habit of coming in through our cat flap and helping itself to the cat's food indoors. It then makes its way in to the lounge if it can to sleep under the sofa! We then have to extract it and put it back outside. Henry, as it is known hibernated last winter in our garden as looks a good size to hibernate again this year however he it still feeding regularly every evening but I think it won't be long if the temperatures stay low for any length of time.
We also spotted a baby in our front garden earlier this week but haven't seen it since.

nutcutlet 09/11/2012 at 21:22

I haven't seen a hedgehog for years and feel quite deprived

cliff godfrey 09/11/2012 at 22:17

Reading your article on Hedgehog Spotting only ten minutes after seeing one on my back lawn at 20.55 on Friday 9/11/2012 ! Now thats a coincidence and the first time I have ever seen one in my Garden in 27 years of living at this property. My home is situated on the edge of the countryside and it seems remarkable having not seen one here before.

Lynne Box 10/11/2012 at 09:42

I live in the city of Worcester and have many hedgehog visiting my garden on a nightly basis. I feed them hedgehog food (Spikes semi-moist is there favourite at the moment), sunflower seeds and dried and live mealworms. I split the food over three feeding stations to try and avoid fighting. Upturned plastic crates with a 10cm sguare cut out are ideal and stop cats but not blackbirds eating the food. I also have three hedgehog houses in the garden but it is difficult to tell if they are being used.
I rarely see them both there is always their mess and I also have a motion sensor camera that films them in the dark. I often have 30 to 40 films per night. I have always fed the birds and I think they started to visit my garden to feed under the bird feeders.

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