Azara Blog: Decline of hedgehogs allegedly down to suburbia becoming hostile

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Date published: 2007/09/03

Hugh Warwick says on the BBC:

Hedgehogs are pretty robust critters. In some form or other they have been around since the beginning of mammals; early versions were nipping at the heels of the departing dinosaurs.

They have survived ice ages, outlasted mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers and even managed to form a symbiotic relationship with their arch-predator, humans.

So why do we suddenly have to worry about the plummeting number of hedgehogs in the UK?
So what are the reasons for the decline? Although the project is only half way through, we are already beginning to get an idea as to some of the main causes. Principal among these is habitat fragmentation.

A happy hedgehog habitat is one in which there is just the right combination of shelter and food. Despite the defensive prickles, hogs do like to keep to the edges.

In fact their natural home is woodland edge - something that we have recreated in abundance - hedges. Or at least there used to be plenty of hedges until the lunatic fashion of ecological destruction took hold.
In suburbia, humanity had created hedgehog heaven, a network of green spaces, complete with cover and food.
So what is making our guests feel so unwelcome? The refuge of suburbia, sanctuary from the ecological desert that so much of our industrialised countryside has become, is also turning hostile. And this is one of the reasons why hedgehogs are in decline.

As the roads become busier, so they also become impassable. As developments get denser, the wildlife corridors vanish.

As the gardens get turned into extensions, either literally or through decking and patio heaters, more habitat is lost.

As we manicure our green space, nuking bugs and napalming weeds, we drive hedgehogs and their food out into a wilderness with little sign of comfort.

In Cambridge, hedgehogs had a noticeable crash in population in the 1990s. Ultimately of course it is trivial to point out that it must be down to the environment not being what it once was, either for food or reproductive or lifespan reasons. But this article seems way over the top and just repeats the usual litany of the chattering classes that suburbia has allegedly all been paved over or kept too neat or dosed with killer chemicals the last decade. Oh, and let's not forget to mention patio heaters, the current pet hate of the chattering classes. But there is never any evidence provided that suburban life is really any different than it has been for the last fifty years. Cambridge certainly hasn't changed much in the last thirty or forty years, with not even that much new housing added since the early 1970s (although that is starting to change now).

(And there has never been any "lunatic fashion of ecological destruction", that is another silly claim in the article. People have done things because they thought they were the best approach given the issues of the day. And just as the current generation thinks the previous generation was clueless, the next generation will think this generation was clueless. It doesn't really add anything to the debate.)

(And unfortunately most so-called environmentalists are actively working for the destruction of suburbia since they believe that high-density urban housing is the only way forward, since allegedly that is more "sustainable". And another fetish of the so-called environmentalists is that housing should be built on brownfield sites and not greenfield sites, but the former are quite often more green than the latter.)

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