Hedgehogs in South Stoke – Sightings and Trails
Project Update, September 2021
Hedgehogs are declining in numbers across the UK, with some surveys showing that numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century. This is mainly in urban areas, with more walls and fences preventing hedgehogs roaming around to find food and shelter, increased lighting, road deaths and competition from other animals. However, they are also declining in rural areas due mainly to hedgerow and field margin loss.
Apart from being an iconic part of our British wildlife scene (and quite cute), they are also an indicator species in the conservation world. Because hedgehogs feed on soil invertebrates, a decline in hedgehogs also indicates a decline in the quality of our environment and the health of the natural world.
Various villages in the UK have tried to address this issue by surveying hedgehog trails and then making new trails in order to help them roam more freely and prosper in numbers eg Kirtlington in Oxfordshire https://kirtlingtonvillage.co.uk/kirtlington-hedgehog-street
In an effort to do something about the decline in numbers in South Stoke we have mapped out some possible hedgehog trails in the central part of the village (between the main bounding roads) using sightings that parishioners have informed us about, and a walkabout survey of gaps in fences and under gates (while walking only on public paths and in public spaces). We started with the two northern parts of the village, either side of the railway, but plan to do something similar for the two southern bits. Based on this rather sketchy information we have then worked out some possible, regular trails and colour coded plots of land on how accessible we think they are to hedgehogs and how easy it might be for them to traverse that plot.
We should point out that gaps in fences and walls need only be very small for hedgehogs to get through - about a 5” square gap, the size of a CD - so larger animals shouldn’t be able to get through easily. As a broad rule of thumb, if you can get a clenched fist under a gate or fence, most hedgehogs will make it through, too.
It is completely understandable that some plots of land are almost impenetrable on all sides, in order to keep children and dogs in, or rabbits out, so we are not trying to criticise anyone if their land is not accessible for hedgehogs, but it gives us an idea of where they may be going at night and an idea of some new trails that could be opened up - with the landowner's permission of course. In order to add further data to our maps and to improve our understanding of the possible trails, please could you let us know if there are further sightings that we're not currently showing, or gaps in fences, walls or under gates that we don't have access to. Or if you think we've colour coded your plot of land incorrectly because of a lack of information, we'd be very happy to change it. Thanks for your help in advance.
Ian & Ali – South Stoke Wildlife & Conservation Group