About Two Owls

Friday 19 February 2021

Hedgehogs Upton and Lytchett Minster

For a change instead of telling you about what Jackie and I have been up to which hasn't been much because of lockdown. I thought I'd add an article from the Upton & Lytchett Minster Hedgehog group it's more or less a summary of what has been happening and what's being done to help the hogs of our town.  They are doing great work and need all the support to continue the work they have started so if you would like to help there is a link to their Just giving page at the bottom of the article.

Hedgehogs in Upton and Lytchett Minster.

We started volunteering for the Dorset Mammal Group as hedgehog coordinators in summer 2019 as part a project called Hedgehog Friendly Towns.  The Dorset Mammal Group's main focus is to reverse the decline in hedgehog numbers and this project is just one of the ways in which they wish to achieve this. Sadly hedgehogs are now vulnerable to extinction in the UK and we need to do all we can to save them. 

The Dorset Hedgehog Friendly Towns project now has 33 towns signed up and 4 more have shown an interest. 

The main goals we want to achieve in Upton and Lytchett Minster are:

·       Encouraging people to create hedgehog friendly gardens and cut hedgehog highway holes in their fencing.

·       Educating residents on what food is safe to feed to hogs (not mealworms, peanuts or sunflower hearts!).

·       Explaining about the dangers of slug pellets, steep sided ponds, garden strimmers and rat poison.

·       Work with the allotment association to promote organic growing and creating habitats on the site. 

·       Reducing hedgehog road casualties.

·       To work with local schools and engage with young people.

·       Fundraising for the Dorset Hedgehog Hospital

We quickly realised how popular hedgehogs were in our town, when over 80 people turned up to the first meeting! The second meeting was just as popular and we can't wait to have another one when guidance allows us. 

We have had an amazing 170 hedgehog sightings from residents during 2020, mostly from their gardens. Most of these are from Upton, and the majority are located around Moorland Way and Sandy Lane. We would like to get more residents on board this year to see if there are more hedgehogs across the whole town, or perhaps the hedgehogs are concentrated in that area. We are particularly keen to hear from people in Lytchett Minster, because we haven't had much data from there yet.  

The project is very new and we only have 1 full year of hedgehog sightings, however it appears there is a good population within our town and they are certainly breeding within our gardens and having multiple broods. Our winters are very mild in Dorset and we know that not all hedgehogs will hibernate. We are encouraging people to continue to feed during the winter, because this helps the late broods to fatten up and keep going through the colder months, when there is less natural food around. 

Sightings of Hedgehogs in the town

There are over 100 residents registered to the project already, who have created a hedgehog friendly garden and want to help them. We hope to get more people onboard this coming year. 

 There were 43 hedgehog road casualties reported to us during 2020, we noticed a significant increase, when the initial lockdown was eased. This has given us the data to find the black spot locations, where we would like to install road signs to encourage motorists to slow down. We are hoping to have the signs installed this spring before they awake from hibernation. 

Map showing Hedgehog road casualty locations

As a temporary measure we installed "ghost" hedgehog signs in prominent locations across the town to show people the amount of hedgehog road casualties. This was done across Dorset and promoted by Hugh Warwick hedgehog extraordinaire. 

The following are the worst roads, which happen to be the main roads through the Town. 

·       Sandy Lane

     Moorland Way

·       Blandford Rd North

·       Blandford Rd 

·       Dorchester Road

We have been working closely with Tracy and Jim at Hamworthy Hedgehog Rescue who do an amazing job dedicating all of their time to rescuing hedgehogs. Last year they rescued 698 and released an amazing 523 back to the wild. They still currently have 148 in the care! They explained to us recently that they get most of their intakes from Upton. Without the kind work they are doing, we wouldn't be able to help as many hedgehogs as we have.  

Sadly it would appear there is a growing trend to paint hedgehogs! We are hoping this is due to residents who wish to identify their hedgehogs. However using emulsion paint on a wild animal is cruel and can make them stand out to foxes and other predators. Tracy has had many entries into their rescue which are covered in multiple colours of paint. We have also both had painted hedgehogs within our own gardens. There is no reason to paint or mark a wild animal, we should just enjoy watching them from a safe distance and learning the individuals by their behaviour and subtle differences. 

One of the Dorset Mammal Group's other projects is to fundraise to create a hedgehog hospital in Dorset. This will help hedgehog rescuers and carers across the county, by offering veterinary care 24/7. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dmghedgehoghospital