Minister in initiative to halt huge decline of hedgehogs
A Stormont minister has launched a campaign to help save the humble hedgehog from destruction.
With the animal's population in dramatic decline, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan warned: "We need to wake up to this before they disappear."
Just a month after telling the Assembly of his personal concerns, the minister yesterday led a departmental initiative and urged people to take action including:
- Leaving out shallow trays of food.
- Cutting holes in fences.
- Building a 'hedgehog hotel'.
That, he said, was: "A simple wooden box design with entrance holes and a watertight lid, making the perfect home for them."
Well used to dealing with prickly issues - planning controversies, setting up the 11 amalgamated councils, and funding cuts - the Foyle MLA focused on our hedgehogs in comments to MLAs.
"I am keen to embark on a campaign. I know that a similar campaign has been embarked on in England to educate people on the risk to hedgehogs and on what they can do to ensure the survival of hedgehogs and, indeed, to boost their numbers," he told the Assembly.
"Generally, if we see a hedgehog during the day, it is an indication that there is something wrong with it. I would be keen, as Minister of the Environment, to undertake a scheme of sorts or a campaign to educate people about the very real threat to hedgehogs and their potential extinction.
"It could be simple measures such as leaving out a shallow tray of food. They particularly like cat food; I suppose they prefer that to being cat food. People could also cut holes in fences. Simple measures like that do a lot to help hedgehogs, particularly given the loss of habitat that they have suffered in recent years."
And now the minister has teamed up with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to back the Eco-Schools hedgehog campaign, which is already under way.
"Hedgehogs are very much a gardener's friend," he said.
"Their diet includes many garden pests including slugs, snails and mice.
"Leaving food out for them at night may attract one into your garden."
In the 1950s it was estimated the UK was home to 36.5million hedgehogs — which play a positive role in gardens, feeding on slugs and snails and are a “priority species” — but now it seems likely there are fewer than a million left.