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Sussex students and staff offer helping hand to hedgehogs on campus

British hedgehogs have recently been classed as vulnerable to extinction

The team setting up the hedgehog footprint tunnels, provided by British Hedgehog Preservation Society

A team of students and staff are working together to make the University of Sussex campus hedgehog-friendly as part of a national scheme to help protect the much-loved spiny mammals from extinction.

The Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme aims to raise awareness of the plight of hedgehogs, while taking practical steps to improve their habitats and circumstances across university campuses in the UK.

A group of students (Anina Day, Lyric Palmer, Emily Dempster and Paul Thrift) registered the University of Sussex with the scheme, which was set up by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Since then, the students have teamed up with University staff and have begun a campaign to make campus friendly for hedgehogs, while engaging with the Sussex community to raise awareness of the issues that they face.

Lyric Palmer, 4th Year MSci Zoology student said: "Sadly, British hedgehogs have recently been classed as vulnerable to extinction and it is rural populations which have seen the greatest decline. As we are fortunate enough to be studying at a campus surrounded by the beautiful South Downs National Park, it felt only right that our university should be a part of this national campaign to help the plight of the UK hedgehog. 'Hedgehog Friendly Campus' is a chance to learn more about this species and get involved in conservation.”  

The team are currently working towards identifying existing hedgehog populations on campus and assessing the sustainability of their habitats. They have carried out footprint tunnel surveys to establish whether hedgehogs are currently visiting the University.

Crispin Holloway, Life Sciences Technician, is part of the Sussex Hedgehog Friendly Campus team. He said: “University campuses, especially Sussex with its mosaic of habitats including woodland edges and natural grasslands, provide potentially excellent homes for hedgehogs. Being nocturnal and dwindling in numbers nationally, it means they are rarely seen. The last official recorded sighting of a hedgehog on the Sussex campus was in 2010 but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are no longer here!

“We have been working hard deploying and checking daily ten hedgehog footprint tunnels (provided by British Hedgehog Preservation Society) across campus. We clearly have a very active nightlife! There are lots of small mammals leaving their footprints in the tunnels overnight and it has been fun for the team identifying whose prints they are! And this is not just about hedgehogs, it is the whole ecological web that underpins ecosystem resilience and adaptability (which is really important to our wellbeing too), the Sussex campus could one day become a prime example of an ecological haven - a living lab!”

The team have also held fund raisers for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and are raising awareness on social media. They plan to run webinars for the Sussex community, covering topics such as recognising hedgehog field signs and carrying out simple hedgehog surveys in gardens. They also hope to run in-person events in the future, such as a socially distanced litter picking event on campus.

Ashley Wilcox Grounds Manager said: “The Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme objectives fit perfectly with our existing aims to increase the wildlife and habitat value of the campus. With the training support provided by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and population data being gathered, we will be able to direct grounds maintenance tasking around existing Hedgehog habitats and identify any new areas of activity.

“For further information on the campus conservation visit the Grounds website or explore the many naturalised areas across the campus estate, you never know you might discover one of our elusive hedgehogs.”

The team are looking to get more Sussex students and staff involved in the campaign. You can do so by following Sussex Hedgehog Friendly Campus on social media (they are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and engaging with the events.

For more information on how to get involved, read this blog by Anina Day.

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By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Tuesday, 20 October 2020

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