Blog: hedgehog friendly campus launch

A hedgehog amongst the grass

Jennifer Hughes explains how a group of Lancaster University staff and students are helping this threatened species by creating hedgehog havens and baking hedgehog cupcakes.

Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national accreditation scheme, funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which aims to make university campuses a safer place for wild hedgehogs. The scheme was founded at the University of Sheffield in September 2018, and it has recently been launched as a national campaign – with Hedgehog Friendly Campus Teams popping up at Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cambridge, York, and other universities across the UK.

Lancaster was the first university after Sheffield to get involved, and we already have a 24-strong team of staff, students, and local people who are working together to make life easier for Lancaster University’s resident hedgehogs.

I got involved because, last summer, I came across some social media posts showing photos of campus hedgehogs out in daylight; this made me very concerned because hedgehogs are nocturnal mammals. Habitat loss has caused the UK's hedgehog population to fall by up to 50% since 2000, making them a priority species for conservation. I feel that the rural setting of our campus provides significant scope for implementing hedgehog-friendly adjustments.

We recently celebrated Hedgehog Awareness Week by holding our Hedgehog Friendly Campus launch event in the Lancaster Environment Centre atrium, raising over £90 for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. We did this by selling cute hedgehog cupcakes and biscuits which were very kindly baked by members of the Lancaster University Baking Society and the Lancaster University Vegetarian and Vegan Society.

We then continued our Hedgehog Awareness Week celebrations with a hedgehog-themed Science Hunters session! Local children used Minecraft to build virtual hedgehog-friendly gardens - with hedges, hedgehog houses and hotels, and water escape ramps!

Hedgehog houses are purpose-built huts with a narrow entrance tunnel to keep out larger mammals. This provides hedgehogs with a safe space to nest during the spring and summer months, and to hibernate during the winter months. Water escape ramps allow hedgehogs to access water in lakes and ponds without falling in and drowning. We are working with the University’s Landscape and Grounds team to install actual hedgehog houses and water escape ramps across campus.

This month, I am doing a sponsored run to raise further funds for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I will running at least 50 miles throughout June as part of a virtual Race at your Pace event, and I would be extremely grateful if anyone would like to support me either by joining in or offering donations. I have set up a JustGiving page to help reach my £200 target

Our next event is a three-hour Hedgehog Surveying Workshop on Saturday 8 June led by Jo Wilkinson - the founder of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus project from Sheffield University. At this workshop, we will be building 10 footprint tracking tunnels made from corrugated plastic – which will help us identify where on campus hedgehogs are. The tunnels contain hedgehog food alongside sheets of A4 paper, as well as wildlife-friendly ink made from vegetable oil and charcoal powder. We will place the tracking tunnels around campus for 5 days, with the food and paper being replaced each day. We will then analyse any inky footprints that are left on the sheets of paper - hedgehog footprints are quite distinctive, with the front feet looking a bit like human hands! This should hopefully give us a good idea of where the hedgehogs on campus are and are not choosing to live, so we can then focus on preserving and expanding their natural habitats.

Tickets for the Hedgehog Surveying Workshop can be booked (for free) here. The workshop is open to staff, students, and members of the local community. All ages welcome. Please note that this event is capped at 30 people, and tickets are allocated on a first come first served basis.

We will also have a stall at Animal Care Lancaster’s open day on Sunday 23 June. Please register here if you would like to be the first to hear about Hedgehog Friendly Campus news and volunteering opportunities.

If you see a hedgehog in trouble, or one out and about in the daytime that is lethargic or wobbly, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 and/or take it to your local vets – find more advice here.

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Author biog

Dr Jennifer Hughes is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University, having completed her BA, MA, and PhD in the same department. Jennifer is passionate about animal welfare, and is currently doing work experience at Bay Vets Lancaster.

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