Gardeners in France asked to help hedgehogs in new campaign

People with gardens in France are being encouraged to look out for hedgehogs, in a new campaign to raise awareness of the animal’s continuing decline, with some predictions saying they could be extinct by 2050.

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Bird protection society la Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) has launched “Mission Hérisson” (Mission Hedgehog), and is encouraging individuals to observe and help out hedgehogs in their outdoor space in a bid to better the protect the animal and to raise awareness of its plight.

From Thursday July 16, the campaign begins. To take part, people are requested to place special “tunnels” for five consecutive nights in a quiet area in your garden or secluded outside space, and paint the floor of the tunnel with a special kind of charcoal-based “ink”.

The next morning, if any hedgehogs (or any animals, such as squirrels) have made a visit, their inky footprints will be visible on the cardboard. You can then identify the species on the LPO website, and submit the data each day to help support the campaign.

You can construct these tunnels yourself - according to the LPO’s guidelines - or buy a pack from the website.

This will help the LPO and researchers better evaluate the state of the hedgehog population in France.

The LPO has released a video showing the process and a page with a comprehensive list of resources on hedgehogs, and how to make your garden more inviting for them.

In general, hedgehogs can be encouraged if you build a small “hut” for them in a calm area that is sheltered from direct sunshine, heavy rain or strong winds. Placing some crumpled newspaper in the “entrance” of the hut can help you see if it is occupied, as the hedgehog will move it when they enter.

No more hedgehogs by 2050?

The campaign comes as the animal’s welfare is in danger, and their numbers are in rapid decline in France. According to the naturalist Philippe Jourde, two thirds of hedgehogs have disappeared in the country over the past 20 years.

At this rate, estimates suggest that the species could even disappear completely by 2050.

It is threatened by cars, pesticides, lawn mowers and hedge cutters, drowning in swimming pools, poisoning, forest fires, and even poaching for consumption.

Yet hedgehogs can be good animals to have in your garden. They are nocturnal and eat slugs and snails, as well as insects that can be damaging to crops and vegetables.

They are also a wild and protected species, meaning that it is illegal in France to take them from their natural environment and keep them as a pet or otherwise. Doing so can be punished by up to two years in prison and a fine, rising to as much as a €300,000 if the animal is taken from a national park or nature reserve.

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