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Nothing prickly at UON with hedgehog-friendly silver status

Date 4.05.2021

There’s nothing prickly about the University’s commitment to protecting an iconic but endangered animal, after receiving the silver award for being ‘Hedgehog Friendly’.

The University of Northampton (UON) has been an official friend of the spiky mammal since 2020 when the British Hedgehog Preservation Society awarded it a bronze certificate as part of a national accreditation scheme.

The scheme raises awareness of the plight of hedgehogs and encourages universities to consider their habitats while maintaining campus grounds.

Now, thanks to further conservation initiatives across the University, the society has awarded UON a silver certificate for 2020/2021. These measures include:

  • Installing hedgehog ‘highways’ where holes have been made in perimeter fencing to allow hedgehogs to pass through the campus.
  • Plaques installed to raise awareness among staff and students about the highways.
  • ‘Habitat piles’ consisting of cut branches and leaves left by the UON Grounds team as a source of food and shelter.

Hedgehogs are traditionally seen as a ‘gardener’s ally’ because they eat pests such as slugs that can cause damage to plants, but their numbers have fallen dramatically over the past two decades.

Counting hedgehogs isn’t as easy as it sounds, but since 2000 it is estimated that more than half of the countryside hedgehog population has perished and around a third of those in towns and cities have met a similar fate.

Student Freya Smith, who is in the second year of her Games Design degree, created a ‘Hedgehog Squad’ which is largely to thank for helping hedgehogs safely navigate and live at Waterside.

She said: “The silver award means that our efforts to help make the campus suitable for hedgehogs have been officially recognised. Even during these difficult times with a pandemic, we have committed to making sure that we strive to improve the campus environment and will be heading onto completing the gold award for next year.”

Janet Jackson is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Ecology at UON. She founded and leads on the University’s Project AWESOME.

AWESOME* stands for Accessing Waterside’s Ecosystem Services: Observing and Monitoring the Environment. The group is tasked with enhancing, conserving and protecting the wildlife in and around the University’s Waterside campus.

She added: “An awesome team of students and staff have made great efforts to safeguard and help protect hedgehogs at Waterside campus for the past two years. Our staff who look after the sports pitches on campus have even worked to make sure their nets are lifted off the ground when not in use, as hedgehogs can get entangled in them.

“Another welcome addition is that hedgehog conservation measures are now officially written into the University’s procedures and policies, helping enshrine the safety of this precious and, ecologically, very helpful animal.”

The 2-8 May marks national Hedgehog Awareness Week. This year, the organisers – the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – are asking people to create their own hedgehog-friendly garden.

*For more about the work of Project AWESOME, please see their Facebook and Twitter profiles. You can also email them at: project.awesome@northampton.ac.uk