Saturday, October 16, 2021
HomeNewsNotes from the Sticks: Hedgehogs aren’t pets

Notes from the Sticks: Hedgehogs aren’t pets

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IT’S decades since I saw a hedgehog, but this week a woman in our village told me that until this year she had five or six regularly visiting her garden. Now, however, there seem to be only two.

Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are in serious trouble in Britain. In the 1950s there were estimated to be 36million but there could be fewer than a million today. They face all sorts of problems, including loss of habitat such as hedgerows; garden and agricultural pesticides which poison their favoured prey of beetles, worms, caterpillars and slugs, as well as poisoning the hedgehogs directly, and being run over on roads. (Thirty-odd years ago we lived in Southend, which I still love, and on the way home from work in the early hours we would see numerous hedgehogs beside one particular stretch of the A127 round the edge of the town. They would often amble across the road but it was easy enough to see them and take avoiding action. I cannot understand why anyone should need to run one over.) Their decline has coincided with an increase in the population of badgers,  which have a taste for hedgehogs. Then there is my bete noire, the strimmer, used to devastate the lovely thick vegetation where hedgehogs like to sleep during the day on road verges. Many are killed or injured by this vandalism. Although a hedgehog can live for ten years, half die in their first year and most of the rest die before they are three. 

This week I learned that there is yet another threat to hedgehogs. Tory MP Matthew Vickers told the Commons that they are being caught and sold as pets for as much as £300. I don’t know how much of a problem this is – I searched on Google for hedgehogs for sale and while there are a lot of adverts, the ones I found were for a different species, the African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris). But unfortunately the fact that this has been mentioned will put them at even greater risk, because certain people will now be on the lookout for them thinking they can sell them. 

Hedgehogs are certainly cute. There are plenty of videos on YouTube portraying them as adorable and amusing. I found this video of a family of them in a garden: 

But I seriously doubt that they make good pets. For one thing they are nocturnal. For another they are solitary and probably don’t like to be handled. Plus they are alive with fleas and often ticks. (I found lots of pictures and videos but I will spare you.) I would steer well clear. This applies to the African pygmy hedgehog too.

The best thing you can do is to help wild hedgehogs, particularly in gardens. Here is a video with information on how to do this. 

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The brambles are in flower. Nearly all of them are white but I found this unusual pink one which I thought was very pretty. 

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On Friday I was hoping to take a picture of the giant bellflowers (Campanula latifolia) on the Ribble bank when I realised they were in direct line with a herd of cows and calves which had come down for a drink. So here is my attempt at a two for the price of one video, featuring a very young black calf (and our cement works).

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Football fans won’t realise they have my husband Alan to thank for England’s progress in the Euros. A couple of years ago, we were at an airport in the Canary Islands when a frantic young German man dashed up to him and asked if he could lend him 25 euros, which was the charge for taking his hand luggage on the plane home to Dusseldorf (his suitcases were already on board and he had no cash). Alan handed it over and declined to give his address for repayment, saying ‘Next time you play us at football let us win.’ He is now out scouring the streets of Clitheroe for an Italian he can do a favour for. 

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Finally, seen on Thursday: Well, you can’t be too careful.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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