Hedgehog friendly campus
In 2019, led by Keele Wildlife Society student volunteers, Keele became one of the first universities to achieve Hedgehog Friendly Campus Bronze accreditation for demonstrating positive action and achievements to protect and promote this native species on campus.
Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national project funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society that aims to turn university campuses into a place where hedgehogs can thrive. Hedgehogs are in decline and need our help.
Keele Hedgehog Friendly Campus Group’s mission is to make the campus safe for hedgehogs and to promote habitat for them to thrive. We can do this by keeping the campus litter free, with connected habitats and provisions for hedgehogs to find food and water as well as shelter.
Anyone can get involved, from students and staff, to local residents and student societies. The success of the campaign so far has been thanks to collaboration between Green:Keele, KeeleSU, Student Services, Estates & Grounds, Keele Wildlife Society and the local residents association. You don’t need any prior knowledge or experience. Every step helps to raise awareness for hedgehogs and other wildlife on campus and enables Keele staff and students to play an active role in helping hedgehog populations to recover.
Staff and students can join the Keele Hedgehog Friendly Campus Group, and we have a channel for Hedgehog Friendly Campus in the Student Sustainability Community on Microsoft Teams too. Follow updates and find out about events and activities you can get involved in on Facebook and Twitter.
Hedgehog Friendly Campus Awards
- Bronze (2019/20)
- Bronze (2020/21)
- Silver (2020/21)
- Gold (2021/22)
- Platinum (2022/23)
Student Hedgehog Ambassador, Joe Gough, who is studying biology at Keele University has curated a fact file of information about hedgehogs and collated some tips that we can do to help them.
Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society annually. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them.
In 2023 the charity is asking people to ‘Think Hedgehog’! Look at your grounds or garden or greenspace and consider how useful or dangerous it might be if you were a hedgehog – is it a hedgehog disaster?
Hedgehogs are among the most iconic, most unusual and most charismatic animals that call the UK home. They’re also among the most famously threatened; through a combination of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and human encroachment into wild spaces, the UK’s hedgehog populations (particularly those living in urban areas) are experiencing unsustainable and ongoing population declines. Keele is working to ensure that its campus is a hedgehog-friendly site, and to allow any species to survive it is important to understand what they are, how they live and what threats they are facing. If you’re eager to learn about these lovable little bundles of spines and want to learn about how to better contribute to their conservation, read on!
There are at least 17 species of hedgehogs in the world, distributed across Africa, Asia and Europe. The species present in the UK is the European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus, also known as the Common or Western European Hedgehog), which is a relatively large species (16-26cm in length) that can also be found in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and many other regions of western Europe. Relatives of shrews and moles, hedgehogs are small, nocturnal, carnivorous mammals that are easily distinguished from any other animal thanks to the abundant quills that coat their back, which are made of hardened keratin (the same material that makes up both the hair and fingernails of humans,) and which are technically highly modified hairs themselves. The skin that a hedgehog’s quills are attached to is baggy and supported by powerful muscles, and as such when threatened hedgehogs are able to curl up into a tight, spiny ball by essentially pulling the spiny skin on their back over the legs and belly.
Although their spiny appearance may suggest otherwise, hedgehogs are not closely related to porcupines, which are rodents while hedgehogs belong to a group of animals called eulipotyphlans (which also includes moles, shrews and other sharp-toothed, long-snouted little mammals.) In fact, they’re actually more closely related to horses than they are to any other spiny mammals! This evolutionary phenomenon, in which different species develop similar characteristics despite lacking common ancestry, is called convergent evolution.
European Hedgehogs can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, farmlands and even human settlements. They spend the day sleeping in burrows or under bushes, logs or leaf litter, and emerge at night to look for food (feeding mostly on insects, slugs and worms, although they may also eat eggs, frogs, lizards and mice.) Hedgehogs are short-sighted but have extremely sensitive ears and noses, and perceive their surroundings mostly by smell; upon encountering an unfamiliar smell they may emit a foamy substances from their mouths and rub it on their spines in a poorly understood behaviour known as “self-anointing” which is thought to serve some role in masking their smell from predators or spreading their smell to communicate with others of their species. Foxes, owls, snakes and badgers are all known predators of European Hedgehogs, with badgers in particular seemingly playing a key role in preventing hedgehogs from becoming established in certain areas.
European Hedgehogs breed mainly between May and June, and give birth to a litter of 4-5 young after a gestation period of 30-40 days. Young hedgehogs, known as hoglets, piglets or pups, are born in a sheltered nest created by their mother and are wrinkly and blind at birth, with a protective membrane covering their spines to prevent them from breaking or harming their mother. At around 4 weeks of age the hoglets are developed enough to travel with their mother as she feeds, and at 10 weeks old they are fully independent, although they do not become full-grown until they are nearly 2 years old. Wild hedgehogs may live for over 5 years, while individuals cared for in captivity have been recorded to live for over 10 years.
In the UK, hedgehogs are active between April and October. During the winter, they hibernate beneath logs or in purpose-made burrows called hibernacula.
Hedgehogs have long been beloved in the UK; in addition to their cuteness and their status as something of a symbol of European wildlife, they also benefit farmers and gardeners by feeding on beetles and slugs that may harm cultivated plants. However, human activity has negatively affected wild hedgehog populations in numerous ways, and further action is required to avoid the extirpation (national extinction.) There are many ways to help hedgehogs in your day-to-day life. For example:
- Be aware of hedgehogs on the road – Habitat fragmentation (in which a habitat is broken up into smaller regions by structures such as roads and canals, preventing animals from safely moving between them) is a major threat to hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are nomadic animals that travel considerable distances in search of prey, and are frequently injured or killed while attempting to cross roads at night.
- Check firewood for hedgehogs – Hedgehogs frequently take shelter underneath dry wood, and as such they are often accidentally scooped up and burned during bonfires and campfires. Checking firewood for hedgehogs is particularly important during the hibernation period (between November and April), as hibernating hedgehogs may be unaware of their surroundings and can therefore easily be taken alongside any wood they are sheltering under without reacting.
- Make a hedgehog house – Hedgehog houses can easily be put together and left out to provide wandering hedgehogs with a safe space to sleep or even hibernate! The Wildlife Trust has produced a guide on how to set up a shelter for hedgehogs, which can be found here.
- Avoid Using Slug Pellets – When slugs eat slug pellets the poisonous chemicals within them are stored within their body. If a hedgehog (or other larger animal) eats a slug that has been poisoned by slug pellets they take these poisons into their body from the prey, and if an individual eats multiple poisoned slugs the poisons will build up in its body, killing it. For this reason, slug pellets should never be used.
Visit Hedgehog Street for more information. Visit the link.
Report your sighting on the Big Hedgehog Map.
If you see the hedgehog out in the day, call your local hedgehog rescue for support.
'Think hedgehog' with us by looking at things from a hedgehog's-eye view.