I never intended to become a wildlife campaigner but I think I have to admit to myself that is what I am today, at least in part, even if I’m not that good at it – since January I’ve been doing my small part for the wider campaign for hedgehogs, called Hedgehog Street, and part of this is a national survey running from the 1st of February to the 31st of August, and this has been ongoing for three years (see the reports for 2012 & 2013 here) to form a better picture about what is happening to them. To support this I’ve promoted the campaign in a few local media outlets such as Nantwich News & The Cat Radio to ask people to get in touch with sightings; but the most enjoyable part of this is the glimpses of this mammal that I’ve had myself; though it was before I knew of the survey the most memorable (and odd) encounter was last summer when an adult woke me up in my garden by running into my face. When we both got over the shock it ran off, and I was surprised at how noisy they can be for their size (something hedgehog lovers have long known of course, but I’m new to the table). My later realisation was not quite as amusing and markedly less joyful; that these animals, beloved by almost everyone in the country (I’m going to exclude gamekeepers because of their use of the indiscriminate fen trap), have been severely reduced in numbers by our activities since the 1950s. Whilst the precise numbers are unknown, it’s very unlikely that there are more than a million left, a fraction of their numbers in the 1950s. The threats to the hedgehog are too numerous to mention but an overview can be found here with suggestions about what you can do to help them; and please do so (but not with milk!), because it may not be long before the many ‘I barely see them anymore’ equivalents I hear when discussing hedgehogs with people start becoming ‘I never see them anymore’. You can register to help with the national campaign here.
On to the moomins! You may have heard that beavers have been on the River Otter in Devon for a few years, likely having escaped from captivity nearby. Historically, the European beaver lived throughout the UK but was hunted to extinction for its fur & meat. Fortunately, the beaver is an ecological keystone, as George Monbiot explains, meaning it is a real gem for the river ecosystem, and so the results of its presence wherever it is reintroduced in Europe are very positive. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk response of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), an already infamous government department due to their policy of culling badgers, is to capture these individual beavers and place them in zoos for reasons that soon fall apart under the mildest of scrutiny; that they harm fish populations, when in fact the presence of beaver dams is a great boon for fish as shelter and breeding grounds. Species of high conservation priority also benefit from the dams such as otters & water voles.
One renowned ecologist finds this plan to effectively eradicate the beaver from the English wilderness a second time so abhorrent that he is threatening legal action if DEFRA proceed with their plan. I have sent DEFRA my own comments with a request for them to re-consider; I hope you’ll do the same.
Onwards & upwards for our mammalian neighbours!