by Elisa Freeling
What kid doesn’t love hedgehogs? For years my daughter’s favourite t-shirt had a drawing of one with the caption ‘Hedgehogs: why can’t they just share the hedge?’ But populations of these prickly little guys are in decline nationwide. Conservation efforts are being stepped up, including by the Royal Parks Foundation here in London. They undertook a recent study in Regent’s Park to learn more about hedgehog needs and behaviour.
What they discovered is that about 40 or 50 hedgehogs have been foraging and nesting in the grassland, shrubberies and hedges of the park. Apparently the animals travel up to 1.5 kilometres a night—impressively, that’s the same distance as the Underground line between Regent’s Park and Angel. In spite of all this waddling about, the hedgehogs’ average weight (960 grams, in case you’d like to know) was well above the national average, which suggests there’s no shortage of forage in Regent’s Park. Their favourite foods include slugs, caterpillars, and beetles, so they have a deserved reputation as being good for gardens.
The data is still being crunched, but the results of last year’s survey led to changes such as allowing grassland along hedges to grow longer for hedgehog foraging and nesting. This year’s goal was to find out where the hogs make their nest during the day, as these hideaways are refuges from the eight million people (and dogs) who visit the park every year. The hope is to safeguard the population’s future in Regent’s Park and, by sharing the findings with other urban green spaces and parklands across the country, to help create more hedgehog-friendly habitats.
If you’d like to support the Regent’s Park hogs, you can adopt one. This will benefit both the animal and you—you’ll get a cuddly hedgehog toy, a personalised certificate, and a children’s activity sheet to entertain and inform your own little hoglets.
See the Royal Parks Foundation website for more on Regent’s Park’s hedgehogs and how you can help protect them. To learn how to help hedgehogs in your garden or neighbourhood, check out Hedgehog Street.