Saturday 21st November was the ‘The Day Of The Hedgehog’, a celebration of hedgehogs and their conservation in the UK.

Organised by the Peoples Trust For Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, ‘The Day Of The Hedgehog’ saw the release of two important documents and a gathering of over 300 delegates, groups and organisations to discuss the state of Britain’s hedgehogs and a strategy for their conservation over the next ten years.

I went along to show my support.

Chances are, if you are reading this, you love hedgehogs as much as I do. With their voracious appetite, a passion for gardens and a sometimes noisy sex life, what’s not to love about these iconic garden visitors?!

You are also probably well aware that hedgehogs are in serious trouble with numbers plummeting by a staggering 30% in the last 10 years alone. It’s estimated there are now fewer than one million left in the UK.

The big question is WHY?

We have some of the answers, but not all. Luckily there’s a massive community of hedgehog lovers out there – large organisations, community groups and individuals spanning the entire country, all with a common mission – to save the hedgehog!

Where do we begin?

As with most missions in life we need to ask ourselves some key questions. What is the position now? What do we hope to achieve? (setting ourselves some challenging yet realistic goals). What can we do in the short term? Medium term? Long Term? How do we measure the effectiveness of our actions?

Luckily, where hedgehogs are concerned, the PTES and BHPS have been considering this for quite a while and have just released a couple of interesting documents to start the ball rolling.

The first of the documents released is ‘The State Of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2015‘ report. This is an update of the population trends for hedgehogs in rural and urban areas. I won’t repeat all the facts and figures here but if you are interested you can read or download the report here http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/data/SoBH_2015.pdf.

The second document is the ‘Conservation Strategy For Hedgehogs In The UK 2015-2025‘. The introduction reads as follows…

‘This is a working document, designed to encourage collaboration and improve the efficiency of conservation action, as organisations increasingly appreciate the need to take action for hedgehogs, and the opportunities they present for engagement. This document summarises the main threats facing the hedgehog in the UK, and plans actions for the next decade.

This builds upon previous strategic work commissioned by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) (Warwick, 2010).

The overall aims of the strategy are:
1) (urban/suburban areas): Stabilise populations within urban/suburban areasby 2025.

We define the scope of this aim as the establishment of stable hedgehog populations in a major settlement in every county across the UK.

2) (rural areas): To understand and demonstrate the ecological parameters underpinning viable rural hedgehog populations by 2025.’

You can read or download the full ‘Conservation Strategy For Hedgehogs In The UK 2015-2025‘ document here http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/data/Conservation_strategy_for_the_hedgehog_in_the_UK_2015-2025.pdf

#HOGCON15

Saturday was also the day of #HOGCON15. Held at The International Centre in Telford, this conference brought together leading names in hedgehog conservation, various conservation organisations and hundreds of hedgehog lovers from across the UK…including me!

Telford is a bit of a trek from Ipswich, roughly three and a half hours assuming clear roads. So, with the conference starting around 9.15am I had a rather early start!

So, at around 5.30am I set off. Boy was it chilly! No frost to scrape off the windscreen but the icy breeze was enough to chill me to the bone in just the ten short steps from my front door to the car.

The drive up to Telford was pretty uneventful with one exception! As I passed Cambridge I was hit by a wall of heavy snow. One second I was driving and all was clear and the next second I found myself in the middle of a blizzard! It cleared as quickly as it appeared so didn’t slow me down too much.

Access to the venue was a doddle. As I reached the entrance to #HOGCON15 I was greeted by the lovely smiling face of Fay Vass, CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Before I had a chance to say ‘Hi, I’m Jason…’ Fay was holding my delegate badge out to me. ‘Hello Mr Gadget Man’ she said. We’ve spoken several times online but have never met face to face so I was surprised she recognised me. What a lovely start to the day.

It soon got even better when I was handed my hedgehog goodie bag!

Flicking through the itinerary for the day I could see we had a full day of interesting presentations ahead.

I started with a wander around all the stalls saying hi to a few familiar faces. It was lovely to finally meet Marion from Spikes World face to face!

The day kicked off with a lovely welcome from Fay Vass and a brief overview of why the event had been organised.

The keynote speaker was the ever engaging Dr Pat Morris MBE talking about his life with hedgehogs.

Henry Johnson (Hedgehog Officer for the PTES) outlines the challenges facing the UK’s hedgehogs and conservation goals for the next 10 years.

Dr Philip Baker explains what work is being done in and around Reading to monitor urban hedgehogs.

Hedgehog champion Becky Walton explains how she has set up one of the largest and most successful #HedgehogStreet communities.

Ben Williams outlines his work looking at the effects of road fragmentation on hedgehogs.

Dr Richard Yarnell provided an overview of his work monitoring the hedgehog population on the Nottingham Trent University campus.

Dr Nigel Reeve gave an insight into the work being done to conserve the hedgehogs of The Regent’s Park in London.

Carly Pettett explains some of the findings from her study of managing arable farmland for hedgehogs.

Dr Simone Bullion outlines the fab work being done in my home patch Suffolk to study, monitor and conserve hedgehogs across the county.

Simon Thompson gives us an overview of the Solihull HIA (Hedgehog Improvement Area) – the first hedgehog conservation zone in the world.

Question Time! The panel of today’s experts and speakers assemble to answer questions from the audience. The session was chaired by Hugh Warwick who done a fantastic job throughout the day hosting and ensuring everything run on time!

The day ended with a few closing words and a goodbye from the CEO of the PTES Jill Nelson.

#HOGCON15 had been a resounding success from what I could see. Well organised, friendly and informative.

I couldn’t resist making at least one purchase during the day – I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of one of Hugh Warwick’s books for a while and today was the perfect opportunity. A Prickly Affair sounds like a great book full of Hugh’s wit and charm. I look forward to reading it.

So what about the future?

There is no doubt that Britain’s hedgehogs are in trouble but days like this make me feel hugely optimistic about their future. There’s a tremendous amount of work being done across the country that we can all be proud of. Whether you are a large organisation, a community group, a hedgehog rehabilitator, or just love watching the hedgehogs in your garden, we all have a part to play.

There’s still a LONG way to go but if we put aside any politics or differences of opinion within the community and pull together I have no doubt we will continue to see hedgehogs scurrying around the British countryside for decades to come.

I for one will be doing all I can to help.