ECM HELPING THE HEDGEHOG

For the past three years ECM have been running a ‘Help the Hedgehog’ scheme designed to boost the numbers of animals living in the wild.

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The last hedgehogs to be released back into the wild by Peter Clare before winter sets in

The scheme, which is on-going, addresses the problem of declining hedgehog numbers, which have dropped by over 25% in the past ten years. There is a real danger that hedgehogs could become extinct by 2050. Their decline is due to road kill, loss of hedgerows, loss of rough grassland margins and predation by badgers. Hedgehogs have moved into a more urban environment but this has an increased risk of road kill and problems associated with highly fenced and manicured gardens.

Hedgehogs live on a diet of worms, slugs, spiders and grubs which are most commonly found in hedgerows and rough grassland. ECM has helped farmers improve and increase these important habitats in the past 20 years and has detailed local knowledge of their location in the North West of England on our clients’ farms.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Since the scheme was started, ECM have released back into the wild several hundred rescued hedgehogs originating from Lower Moss Wood wildlife hospital in Knutsford. ECM agronomists are ideally equipped to pick the best release sites based on local knowledge of rough grass land and badger populations. Our farms provide a safe habitat for hedgehogs to thrive away from busy roads which present such a threat to these endangered mammals. Many of the areas are where our conservation of Barn owls and little owls has taken place will provide ideal release sites as they have the rough grassland supporting the necessary insects and bugs to feed hedgehogs. ECM manages many miles of field margins left untreated by pesticides that form corridors between excellent woodland areas highly suitable for the hedgehog. The farmers are provided with a hedgehog house and instructions on where to site it and food for the first few days of release until the hedgehog settles into its new environment.

This project also provides the best chance of survival for the many hedgehogs that the wildlife hospital needs to release each year. ECM staff direct farmers to take injured wildlife to this hospital and this scheme completes the circle by releasing now healthy hedgehogs back to where they belong.

BENEFITS OF THE SCHEME

  • The main benefit of the scheme is to release hedgehogs back into the wild in areas where they stand the best chance of survival. These mammals are at serious risk of extinction and the rural habitat is where they are most likely to breed and prosper.
  • Another benefit we have seen, as with our Barn Owl scheme, is that farmers become more aware of providing good habitat and making changes that benefits all the wildlife as they accommodate the hedgehog on their farm. Their children and family become involved and everyone on the farm does their best to ensure these schemes are a success. This has a long term effect of altering behaviour and greening the attitudes of all those involved including the farmer, his family and ECM staff.
  • The benefit to the wildlife hospital is that they now have a safe and successful release scheme after all their hard work and care in looking after ill and injured hedgehogs.
  • The benefit to the environment is increased care and management to create good habitat for the hedgehog which benefits all the wildlife on the farm and local area.
  • ECM is now looking at other species we could help to release from the wildlife hospital, yet another benefit of becoming involved with this scheme.