The Gold standard. Hedgehog Squad hits high mark for ‘hog happiness

Date 3.02.2023

The University of Northampton’s (UON) ecological ethos got a boost this week for supporting one of Britain’s much-loved mammals – the humble hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are known as the gardener’s ally because they eat pests such as slugs that can damage plants.

But their numbers have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Since 2000, it’s estimated more than half of the countryside hedgehog population has perished. Around a third of those in towns and cities have met a similar fate. But there efforts afoot to help Britain’s spikiest animal spring back.

The Hedgehog Friendly Campus initiative is a national, biodiversity scheme from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. They award universities, colleges, students’ unions, and primary schools for helping hedgehogs and other wildlife on their campuses.

UON is one of 250 other institutions registered on this scheme, and its very own Hedgehog Squad of student and staff volunteers ensured silver status in 2021. This was in recognition of the installation of ‘hedgehog highways’ and ‘habitat piles’ to support the insectivores as they walk and forage around the campus, and information plaques for students, staff and visitors.

Local hedgehog rescue centre Little Wiggly Snouts decided that our campus was a good release site for rescued hedgehogs who could not go back where they were found. So, at the end of 2021, the Squad had two extra reasons to celebrate with a duo of hedgehogs that needed rehoming. Phantom and Warlock (pictured below) moved to Waterside just before Christmas that year. To date, the Squad have recorded other hedgehogs in four different places on campus using wildlife cameras.

Waterside hedgehogs Phantom and Warlock

Gold accreditation – which lasts for the next three years – was also awarded to UON because of the ‘hedgehog training’ completed by five members of UON Grounds staff who will now act as ‘hedgehog allies’, £284 donated to the Society through fundraising activities, a road sign was installed and former Computing student Freya Smith (who has now graduated) gave talks to UON students and online to students at another campus that has since joined the Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme.

Dr Janet Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, says: “Receiving Gold certification for the dedication of our Hedgehog Squad is wonderful news. We are all very excited to see their commitment recognised in this way.

“It’s also a tremendous outcome for this endangered icon of the British countryside and reflects the wider benefits for wildlife across our beautiful campus. A population of animals such as hedgehogs can signify a healthy, local ecology, so it’s little wonder that Waterside is a haven for other forms of wildlife, such as insects, birds and our otters in the River Nene. But we’re not complacent and are already looking at broadening our environmental approach over the coming months and years.”

For more about the work of Janet and her team, see the Project AWESOME Facebook page for updates.

Have you thought about becoming a Hedgehog Champion?