Gardeners called to save France’s declining hedgehogs

Hedgehogs can be useful in gardens but their numbers are being threatened

Gardeners and car drivers across France are being called to watch out for and protect hedgehogs, in a bid to save the creatures from ever-greater threats in their natural habitats.

Hedgehogs are often prized by gardeners as they eat slugs and other nuisance insects.

Yet, their numbers across France are in decline, prompting animal welfare society La Société Française Pour L’Etude et la Protection des Mammifères (SFEPM) to issue a plea for their protection in the journal Courrier de la Nature.

Drivers are warned that cars are the biggest killer, according to SFEPM president Christian Arthur, who has said that between 26,000 and 48,500 hedgehogs are struck and killed by road vehicles every year in Alsace alone.

Yet, gardeners are advised that their actions could make a significant difference to hedgehog survival.

Animal protection groups are urging gardeners to “renounce the idea of the ‘perfect garden’”, and leave things to grow a little more wild, while avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides.

Pesticides, insecticides and items such as anti-slug pellets can destroy hedgehogs’ natural food sources and also be a threat for the animals themselves, if they accidentally eat the products.

Similarly, “mineral” gardens, or those primarily made up of pebbles or smooth cobblestones can stop the environment from developing its normal biodiversity, which can threaten small animals’ way of life.

Garden tools can also be dangerous; lawnmowers and trimmers can be a serious risk to hedgehogs, severely injuring them, or simply killing them outright.

Leaving things to grow a little more wild in some parts of your garden, with more green space and fewer manicured areas - the group explains - will allow animals such as hedgehogs to thrive in a safer, more peaceful, and more biodiverse garden environment.

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