Though Hedgehogs might be small, they are quite speedy. When pet owners clock the critters on their rotating wheels, they discover they cover miles. In the wild, hedgehogs roam just as far, but the fences bordering backyard gardens can cut these nocturnal journeys short, which has become a detriment to the species, as a whole.
That's why British homeowners are being encouraged to knock holes in their fences and set up a nation-wide hedgehog highway system, reports Robert Smith for NPR.
In the past 10 years, the hedgehog population in Britain has dropped by 30 percent, ecologist Hugh Warwick tells Smith. He chalks this up to the barriers hedgehogs face at night that keep them from finding food and mates. Trash can also pose a problem for the prickly critters. "Rubber bands dropped by British mail carriers get stuck around hedgehogs and can create infections, and hedgehogs can get their little spiny heads stuck in cups thrown by the side of the road," Smith writes.
Enter the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, whose mission is to help the public care for hedgehogs. According to the BIG Hedgehog Map, a project by the BHPS and the People's Trust for Endangered Species, there are more than 2,784 holes that people have created for hedgehogs' wanderings. The hedgehog admirers are also encouraging companies to redesign their products with the little creatures in mind.
The holes don't need to be large — a couple inches of clearance are all the hedgehogs need, Smith writes for NPR. Wildlife Watch, part of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, recommends a roughly five-inch square hole in this instructional video on how to keep hedgehog highways open. The group even offers an adorable sign to mark the opening.
Hedgehogs eat slugs and lots of other creepy crawlies that would otherwise pester vegetables and flowers. So people may find that building hedgehog highways not only help keep these cute critters alive, but also help encourage their gardens to grow.