THE Gazette has joined wildlife experts in calling on people to get outside this summer to catch a glimpse of the increasingly illusive hedgehog.
The RSPB is hoping to raise awareness of the plight facing hedgehogs and encourage residents to make their gardens more hog-friendly.
The society’s latest annual garden watch survey found hedgehogs were spotted in fewer gardens for the third consecutive year.
Of the 139,000 gardens surveyed, one quarter did not record a single sighting in the whole of 2016.
Now the Gazette is urging readers to send in pictures of their hedgehog sightings in a bid to raise awareness of the struggle the spiny mammals face.
Andrea Turner, clinical lead of paediatrics at Colchester General Hospital, was surprised to spot this hedgehog in the staff car park after a shift.
Dr Turner said: “He was certainly a prickly customer.
“I was surprised to spot him as I headed to my car, you definitely just don’t see as many hedgehogs as you used to.
“They are in a worrying decline.
“I would call on people to get out and make their gardens more hedgehog friendly and send in pictures of their best sightings to the Gazette.”
Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist, added: “Often the wildlife we see in our garden is the first experience we have with nature – whether it’s a robin perched on the fence or a hedgehog snuffling around looking for its next meal.
“Unfortunately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that was once common to us are sadly becoming more mysterious to people.
“There are simple things we can all do to make our gardens perfect for wildlife.
“From creating a feeding station for birds or hedgehogs to digging a small pond to help amphibians, these easy activities can help turn your garden into a wildlife haven.”
Campaign group Hedgehog Street estimates the UK has lost around 30 per cent of its hedgehog population since 2002.
There are likely fewer than 1,000,000 left in the country, with the population appearing to decline at the same rate as tigers globally.
Send your best pictures of hedgehog sightings to email@example.com, with a description of where and when the illusive creature was spotted.
To learn more about the RSPB Wild Challenge, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge
For ideas on how to make your garden more hog-friendly, visit hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/helpful-garden-features/