Molecular Plant Sciences

Blog - Save our hedgehogs!

IMPS members are working hard to make our campus hedgehog-friendly.

(Author: Bob Mason Editor: Annis Richardson)

Did you know that the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is severely threatened in the UK?

Collage of 3 images, team members clearing stones from the site, putting up posters about our project and digging up horsetails
Collage of 3 images, team members clearing stones from the site, putting up posters about our project and digging up horsetails

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report for 2022  states that hedgehog numbers have dropped by 33%-50% since 2000 due to increased urbanisation and habitat fragmentation. This means that the places hedgehogs like to live with plenty of their favourite food and good places to hide from predators are getting smaller and are not connected to each other, making it harder for hedgehogs to survive and breed.  If this loss of habitat continues hedgehogs could die out in the UK. To prevent the loss of our hedgehogs, people are working to make more hedgehog habitat and connect the fragments up. For example, leaving holes in the bottom of garden fences can allow hedgehogs to move between gardens and leaving grass long provides cover for them. Here at King’s Buildings a dedicated team of volunteers led by Sophie Haupt (our plant growth facilities manager) are working to help our Edinburgh hedgehogs by restoring a previously developed area into a new natural habitat.

Lack of food and a lack of safe shelter to nest and hibernate are two key issues hedgehogs face in urban areas, so we have designed our new wildlife area to provide both of these to hedgehogs and any other wildlife around our campus. We are clearing a former building site next to our building to transform it into a habitat that is welcoming to both nature and staff. To achieve this hedgehog-friendly dream we are creating a mix of grass lawn and wildflower meadow that can be used for rest and relaxation, will attract lots insects and provide food for hedgehogs. Around the meadow we are planting an array of native Scottish plants and a bramble/raspberry border hedge that will create shelter for hedgehogs (and passers-by a quick healthy snack!). Our restored hedgehog habitat will be free of pesticides, motorised gardening tools and extensive netting, all of which pose serious threats to hedgehogs. So far, we have cleared the soil of stones using rakes and a digger and sowed meadow grass seed. We have also collected cuttings of native plant species such as blackthorn, bramble, gorse and hazel, and we are growing them in pots to be planted around our meadow. Recently we have also been supported by the Woodland Trust to plant a brand-new hedge providing even more protection for the hedgehogs.

Starting from the blank slate of the old building site often proves tiring, but it is thoroughly rewarding. Nature is already starting to benefit from our work! Everyone involved is also feeling the mental health benefits- with moods boosted and science problems forgotten whilst working outside. If you would like to find out more about how you could help hedgehogs too check out the hedgehog friendly campus award.

You can follow our progress on our Instagram.