This article was published in Blackmore Vale Magazine on 29 September 2014.
Okay, Okay, I know it’s a prickly subject but your esteemed correspondent is not hedging his bets. Everyone is always badgering on about saving those prison-outfit badgers but what about poor little hedgehogs?
As you may know, badgers have a liking for hedgehogs as a tasty midnight feast. My father-in-law said that the other day he saw (and chased away) a badger that was attacking a hedgehog in his garden. Not only do badgers pick on hedgehogs but the two species also compete for worms, slugs and small mammals.
We know that the hedgehog population has declined dramatically. They used to be a regular sight on country walks and in people's gardens. I for one haven't seen one in years. Statistics show that the hedgehog population has decreased by a third over the last ten years. That's even faster than Sonic! Conversely, the badger population's expansion is exponential. You can't venture out in your car at night to see friends without picking one up in the headlights, scuttling away along the road or up a bank.
I accept that many are more fond of badgers than I. I used to think them a tremendous animal, creatures of The Wild Wood, that one rarely caught a glimpse of. Back then it was foxes that were the demons and two-a-penny. Now they have become a mundane sight, their setts scouring many banks and extending into fields, traps for tractors and other farm machinery.
But whichever side you come down on re. the badger, both in isolation and as part of the TB debate, the question remains: what about the poor old hedgehog?
These shy and retiring little fellows, much loved despite their prickly defence mechanism, seem to be blind-walking into extinction. The first badger culls threw up one particularly interesting statistic: independent studies by both the University of Exeter and the University of Southampton showed that in cull areas hedgehog populations doubled between the beginning and end of the culls. A silver lining in what is an emotive and terrible situation.
So why is the hedgehog less popular? Why doesn't the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have more clout and legions of lobbyists? Does no-one care? I do and I am sure millions of others do too. Let's hope this article pricks the conscience of many.