As dusk falls in The Regent’s Park, one of Britain’s most loved mammals wakes up. These elusive creatures are nocturnal, around 20cm long, hibernate during winter, and survive on a diet of juicy worms, beetles, and other invertebrates. They’re also known to roll up into a spiky ball at the first sign of danger.
The iconic hedgehog has been disappearing from our towns and cities at a worrying rate, with numbers declining by a third over the last 20 years. Habitat loss, pesticides, and hazardous roads have made life hard for these city dwellers. They’ve all but vanished from the capital’s central Royal Parks, except in The Regent’s Park, where a small and vulnerable population of around 30-40 animals still remain.
What we've been doing
The Royal Parks have been monitoring this important population since 2014. Every May and September the Hedgehog Team, along with top wildlife scientists and over 150 dedicated volunteers, venture out after dark to scour the park using torches and thermal imaging cameras.
These surveys have been vital in helping to understand how the population is faring, which areas of the park they are using and the specific habitats they prefer. The findings have also informed a number of ‘hedgehog friendly’ improvements across the park, such as allowing the grassland beside hedges to grow longer, providing foraging and nesting sites and cutting hedgehog sized holes (aka ‘Hedgehog Highways’) in metal railings to allow the hogs to move more freely around the park.
What you can do
We need support to protect this vulnerable population and there are lots of ways you can help.
- When you’re out and about in the park be sure to dispose of your litter responsibly - polystyrene cups, plastic beer can loops, elastic bands and other litter can be harmful to hedgehogs
- Take care when driving or cycling around the park at dusk (our hedgehogs have been known to cross roads!)
- Stop your dog rummaging in the undergrowth as they may disrupt sleeping hedgehogs
You can also do your bit at home. With little effort, your garden can become a real refuge for our prickly pals. Cut a hole in your fence or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to help hedgehogs pass freely through your garden. Ask your neighbour to do the same. A leaf pile, log pile or compost heap can make the perfect nesting site, and be sure to lay off the slug pellets – hedgehogs can hoover up over 100 snails, slugs and worms every night, so no need to use poisonous pellets. And even if you’re not treated to a visit by these amazing animals, other wildlife will thank you for your efforts.
For more information on this project, and what you can do to help, visit: www.royalparks.org.uk/hedgehog
Visit Hedgehog Street for tips on how to help hedgehogs in your garden and beyond.
Tess Pettinger, Volunteer and Programmes Manager