Families are being urged to make their gardens havens for hedgehogs in Nottinghamshire this coming year.
Nottinghamshire County Council country park rangers say hedgehogs are a rarity in the forests of the parks, but thrive in garden areas.
And they have encouraged people to play their part in making the prickly creatures welcome in their gardens as national figures suggest the hedgehog’s future is in danger.
Author Sir Terry Pratchett spoke about the issue during the site visit for the proposed Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre, in East Huntspill, Somerset earlier this week. He estimates that 50 years ago there were 30 million hedgehogs in Britain but now there is only an estimated 1.1 million.
Paul Cook, senior ranger at Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, which is managed by Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The life of a hedgehog can be quite fragile. Even this time of year – hibernation – is fraught with problems – a hedgehog can perish if its body weight is too much or too little.
“Out of hibernation season, I have only seen one hedgehog in the forest here in the last few years because there are more predatory creatures such as foxes, badgers and birds of prey which can target them.
“However, a garden environment is great for hedgehogs – people may want to leave a corner of their garden full of decomposing leaves rather than throw the leaves away as that provides a perfect habitat for hibernating hedghogs.
“They are also excellent at pest control as they target slugs and snails – again families could consider getting non-toxic pellets for these pests as they will not harm hedghogs and are also kind to household pets.
“We should do all we can to protect and promote hedghogs so are happy to offer this advice to people.”
Leanne Diver, ranger at Rufford Abbey Country Park, which is also managed by Notts County Council, said: “Most of the hedgehogs which are spotted in the grounds are in the area of the gardens.
“Our advice to people if they are out walking and see a hedghog which looks injured is to contact us in the first instance. They should not pick hedgehogs up as they are often riddled with fleas.
“Hedgehogs should be in hibernation now and are most likely to surface in the spring and summer foraging for food and we have taken injured hedgehogs to the veterinary hospital in the past for treatment.”