At the end of August I blogged about hedgehogs – an iconic species that is in serious decline throughout Britain. This was mainly a comment on the sad situation where a population of hedgehogs in South Uist is being relocated in order to protect their important population of ground nesting birds. It is often the case that introduced species cause problems. The solutions are frequently expensive and draconian. Or impossible. In my other home, in Alderney, we have a population of introduced hedgehogs that do no great harm. This is because the damage to the Alderney ecosystem was done a long time ago by introduced rats. Thus the hedgehogs cause little or no additional harm.
But back to the Highland Titles Nature Reserve at Duror. Despite ten years of work we have not yet seen any sight of a hedgehog at Duror. This is very disappointing and there does not appear to be any reason for it. It undoubtedly reflects the greatly reduced population of many mammals in Britain – and hedgehogs are high on that list. I saw them frequently as a child – all too often flat on the road – and now I have seen only one wild hedgehog in the last 20 years.
So in September we created a massive hedgehog sanctuary, which is simply a low fence which surrounds an acre of old mixed woodland. It has good leaf litter and a small stream running through it. We have purchased a dozen “hedgehog houses”, which are available commercially so that our new residents will have somewhere to bed down and keep snug.
It is not our intention to create a zoo, but instead we plan to offer a forever home to the wonderful hedgehog charities that take in injured and underweight hedgehogs. Our offer is to rehome in our sanctuary any animal that is too badly injured to release and to provide a release site for any animals which are ready to be given their freedom. We have a large area of woodland where they will be free of road hazard and where we can offer some supplemental feeding whilst they become established. It is our hope that the injured hedgehogs will successfully breed and the offspring can then be released either locally or at other suitable release sites.
Last week we received a visit from Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue who brought us four very special new residents! The first of many we hope.
Hessilhead do an amazing job of rescuing hundreds of animals every year (around 500 hedgehogs alone!!) and you can find out more about them, or donate if you are interested in helping them with their work here: http://www.hessilhead.org.uk
Here’s to the first of many Highland Hedgehogs