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Mrs Tiggywinkle seeks safe home in churchyard

15 February 2013


PARISHES in the UK are being asked to join a survey designed to find out more about hedgehogs' patterns of behaviour, which will be used to provide practical conservation action.

Hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining by three to five per cent each year, and the largest loss is in the south-west, south-east, and eastern regions of England, a ten-year-trend analysis suggests. The Anglican Church's 10,000 churchyards could provide safe havens for them.

The figures were compiled by the People's Trust for Endangered Species, and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which launched the survey this month. They are working with the Church's national environmental campaign, Shrinking the Footprint, to investigate how church grounds could accommodate hedgehogs, which will soon be coming out of hibernation.

The Church's national environmental adviser, David Shreeve, said: "Supporting this survey underlines the Church's commitment to caring for creation, as spelled out in the Fifth Mark of Mission. Our 10,000 churchyards boast a wealth of wildlife, and are hopefully home to a good number of hedgehogs."

One diocese has already noticed a decline in numbers. Judith Evans, who promotes the Living Churchyard scheme for St Albans diocese, said: "There certainly seem to be far fewer hedgehogs around than there used to be. Like all animals, hedgehogs need food and shelter, both of which are likely to be found in the increasing number of churchyards which are managed in a wildlife-friendly way.

"The Living Churchyard scheme encourages the creation of compost heaps and log piles, which, as well as acting as a larder containing slugs and other invertebrates, provides shelter. It would be very encouraging to find evidence of hedgehogs in our churchyards, so I hope churches will take part in this survey."

The People's Trust's priority-targets also include hazel dormice, beavers, noble chafer, and stag beetles, and traditional orchards and native woodlands. Its chief executive, Jill Nelson, said: "Continuous monitoring each year is vital to help us build a more complete picture of the state of the UK's wild mammal populations. Churches collecting data from their churchyards . . . could be very helpful for our research."

For more information visit www.hedgehogstreet.org.



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