Dry summer sends Norfolk's hedgehogs into crisis
- Credit: Stuart Anderson
The unusually hot, dry summer has left Norfolk's hedgehog population in crisis.
Marian Grimes from Hedgehog Haven in North Walsham has urged people with gardens to leave out food and water in shallow bowls for the spiny mammals in an effort to stop them dying of thirst.
"All the Norfolk hedgehog rescues are all full to brimming because of the dry conditions," Ms Grimes said.
"There’s no water, there’s no worms, the ground is so hard, they just can’t find anything.
"So the mums are abandoning the babies and the nests, because they cannot find anything for themselves, so they’re not producing any milk to feed the babies with."
Ms Grimes is looking after scores of hedgehogs in a specially equipped building at the back of her home, feeding the hoglets until they are big enough to be released into the wild.
Among the current residents is a pair called Platinum and Jubilee, so named because they were rescued over that long weekend in early June.
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They are now almost big enough to be transferred to an outdoor hut, so they can get ready to be released into the wild again.
Since setting up the service nine years ago, Ms Grimes has never had such a busy summer which she said was clearly due to the weather.
Ms Grimes said because hedgehogs were nocturnal, if one was seen active during the day, it was usually because something was wrong or they were desperate for food.
She said: "We desperately need people to put out food and water because of these dry conditions.
"Shallow dishes of water and some kind of food - wet cat food or kitten biscuits."
Anyone who finds a hedgehog during the day, especially an infant, should act quickly and call a rescue centre.
These include Hedgehog Haven, 01692 404550; Sheringham Hedgehog Hotel and Hedgehog Rescue in Aylsham. A fill list, with contact details, can be found online at hodmedods.org.uk/rescues
If anyone finds a hedgehog that looks injured or seriously ill, they should be taken to a vet.
"Your vets usually know of somewhere who will look after hedgehogs," Ms Grimes said.
Hedgehogs: How widespread are they?
A report prepared for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society suggests that although the animals have undergone a long, historic decline in Britain, differences between urban and rural populations are becoming increasingly apparent.
The report, called the State of Britain's Hedgehogs 2022, says the picture in urban areas is of a stable population that might be recovering, which highlights the importance of gardens and green spaces - as well as local action - in ensuring a future for the species.
Estimates say there could be between 200,000-250,000 hedgehogs living in gardens and other urban green spaces - out of a total population of 879,000, as given by the Mammal Society in 2018.
But populations in rural areas remain low, and the largest declines in numbers have been seen in the eastern half of England.
Despite this, the eastern half of Norfolk and part of Suffolk have among the highest densities of hedgehogs in Britain.