Hedgehogs: petition to better protect UK's prickly garden icons attracts more than 90,000 signatures
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A new petition aimed at better legal protection for the UK's native hedgehogs has attracted more than 90,000 supporters - more than 70,000 of them in the last day.
The Change.org petition was launched after a spate of deadly attacks against the tiny native mammals, and calls for them to be added to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act - which would protect them from being intentionally killed or injured, and their shelters from being disturbed.
A previous petition calling for the same thing - launched by the Hedgehog Society in 2020 - was previously shot down by government. "There are currently no plans to give hedgehogs further legal protection," it said in its response to the parliamentary petition.
Hedgehogs were already protected from being killed using prohibited methods such as crossbows, traps and snares, the government said, and it had "no evidence that intentionally killing, taking or injuring a hedgehog is currently an issue".
But native hedgehogs are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction on the Red List for Britain’s Mammals 2020, and campaign group Hedgehog Street says numbers have plummeted in recent years - with up to 75% disappearing in some parts of the countryside.
Maggie Wilcox, who launched the new petition, questioned how many violent attacks on hedgehogs there needed to be before the government considered them ample evidence.
Among the examples listed was one just last week (25 September) which saw a hedgehog reportedly kicked to death by three young people in Bury St Edmonds. Just a few days earlier, on 19 September, what appeared to be a baby hedgehog died after being kicked by four teenagers in Northumberland, three of whom were wearing school uniforms, ITV reports.
Ms Wilcox wrote that she was motivated to start the petition by an attack in her former home of Holt, where a hedgehog had its spines cut off and was spray-painted blue, with the RSPCA forced to put it down.
"This heartbreaking event deeply affected the community and highlighted the urgent need for stronger legal protection for these incredible creatures," she said.
"For over 11 years, I have dedicated myself to supporting and rescuing hedgehogs in my Norfolk garden. Sadly, I have read about many other cases of hedgehogs being killed or injured, including intentional acts of cruelty. It is devastating to see these innocent animals suffer due to human actions."
By adding hedgehogs to Schedule 5, Ms Wilcox said the government would be providing them with additional legal safeguards, which reflected their vulnerable status and declining population.
"Enhanced legal protection would not only deter potential offenders but also raise awareness about the importance of conserving this iconic species," she wrote. "It would send a clear message that harming or disturbing these animals will not be tolerated in our society."
There are a number of other ongoing projects aimed at minimising other threats the garden icons face. Through to late November, UK schools can join and compete in a hedgehog-friendly litter pick challenge - and can even include their local communities and win prizes.
Members of the public are also being asked to help get Hedgehog Street get its new hedgehog friendly fencing campaign rolling - in a bid to make garden fencing with ready-made ‘hedgehog highways’ available as industry standard.