Hedgehogs reclassified as birds?

I intend to put a cat amongst some pigeons, or at least a hedgehog amongst robins with this …

Recently I was with Hedgehog Street at the Women’s Institute Centennial gathering in Harrogate. We had a garden designed by the amazing Tracy Foster that proved to be a great draw to the crowds. As with the garden we did last year at Hampton Court, we were again trying to show how easy it is to have something ravishing and hedgehog-friendly.

I was there for two days – being nice to people all day long is exhausting work, but I managed it (I hope). I have some concerns about the event and while that is not the focus of his blog, I will vent a little now – I thought it a fascinating insight into how little the people who ran the event thought of their membership. I have been all over the country talking to WI groups and they are a dynamic and feisty lot. This event was a glorified shopping trip – three soulless warehouses with stalls selling tat – and the women had to pay a large amount just to enter. If this had been set up as a celebration of the wonderful work of the WI with some shopping, fine, but it was clearly weighted the other way.

But to the real issue, for me. We at the Hedgehog Street stall were not the only wildlife charity on site …

and without wanting to sound like a pervert … can you tell who it is yet? How about this shot of the stall?

Maybe this magnificent representation of the hedgehog will give the game away …

The RSPB have noticed that the hedgehog is very attractive (far more interesting than all those birds, in my humble estimation) and have started to use it mercilessly in their advertising. I have had conversations with people that are very much ‘live and let live’, that all the money is going to help nature – and that we should not be seen as bickering and jealous as it demeans the conservation movement.

Well, balls to that. I know the rationale, I know the line they spin about ‘giving nature a home’ being for all wildlife, not just birds – but it comes down to economics. The RSPB would not be doing this unless they thought it was going to make them money. And that comes at a cost. We had people come up to the Hedgehog Street stall and say that they had already ‘given to help the hedgehogs’. If there is a person with £5 and they want to give it to help hedgehogs – and they see an RSPB stall, they will give it there and that will be £5 that does not make it to the BHPS and the PTES. That is not to say the RSPB is not doing good work, I am sure they are. But we are the ones funding the research into hedgehogs. We are the ones who working out ways to help hedgehogs in rural and suburban environments and we are the ones that are going to continue working on hedgehogs after the birders advertising campaign is done. And we are the ones who are losing out on those five pound notes.

So what is to be done? Should the RSPB lobby for the hedgehog to be reclassified as a bird? Should the BHPS start to raise money by using images of Hen Harriers, Hawfinches and Hawks? Or perhaps the RSPB could consider using some of its vast reserves to help fund our research? It would be good to hear what you think.


8 thoughts on “Hedgehogs reclassified as birds?

  1. This is so true, I popped into a large supermarket yesterday and saw an RSPB Recruiter… with large banner with the hedgehog on and fluffy hedgehogs on the table (I am a member of the RSPB because they are / were a bird charity.. and yes do good stuff…..) They are generalizing themselves and trying to gain more members for fluffy (And prickly) stuff as well as the feathered stuff…. BHPS and PTES do more specific hedgehog stuff.. and funds should be directed more towards them than a charity that had the biggest stand with the biggest hedgehog banner….
    I feel the local wildlife trusts, who do cover everything that lives etc also loose out a bit too. We at Essex Wildlife Trust do have a hedgehog recording scheme now but we / I often recommend BHPS to people…
    Perhaps RSPB could help support BHPS….. Thank you for reading my waffle!

  2. I run a small hedgehog rescue in rural Essex and your article is completely spot on. RSPB recently ran a fund raising collection in my local supermarket and you couldn’t move for model hedgehogs.

    I, like you, suspect this is basically a fund raising wheeze as hedgehogs are beloved by many and all of us involved in hedgehog help know there is great affection for them out there.

    Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if they stated wading in with some serious money to help hedgehogs? They haven’t been terribly helpful so far. I know of two cases in which a RSPB reserve REFUSED to allow rescued hedgehogs to be released into an ideal environment. In one case the rescue involved was told that the hedgehogs would eat the eggs of their ground nesting birds. In the other it was a point blank refusal with no reason given.

    Further while publicising the plight of the hedgehog they do absolutely zilch in the front line work – rescuing, overwintering, medical care which, as you know, is left to an army of committed volunteers funding most of their work out of their own pocket or what little fundraising they have time for – if you’ve got a couple of hundred hedgehogs in, as many have, you don’t have time or the money to pay someone to stand in a supermarket all day long.

    Well said Mr Warwick.

  3. You make some very good points Hugh, I think the RSPB should contribute to the cost of the research done by the PTES and BHPS – very good idea and I am a member of all 3!!

  4. I agree completely Hugh. RSPB should be concentrating on the many, many threats to wild bird habitats in the UK. Aside from adopting the ‘cute’ hedgehog as a symbol of their work which is ridiculous, and therefore diverting donations away from those charities and groups who are directly concerned with this mammal, their current emphasis on ‘giving nature a home’ – ie their drive to encourage wildlife gardening – should not appear to be their first priority. At an RSPB reserve in Wales recently I was given a half hour, ill-informed lecture on wildlife gardening to encourage me to join. After being a wildlife gardening writer for more than 25 years I am delighted that it is suddenly so popular, but it is very important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that gardens are not a substitute for wild habitats and the protection of these areas for birds and other wildlife should be the aim of the RSPB.

  5. I absolutely agree with you Hugh! It is indeed outrageous that the RSPB can do this so blatantly and even more than that, supporters of the RSPB don’t even question the sudden involvement of mammals in an avian societies advertising! I sumise that like me when I’m accosted for support from various wildlife organisations for membership, you sign up to do your bit but are then kept so busy with life outside of your subscription, you don’t even notice when things like this happen. To be completely honest with you all, I find it a sad truth that I am losing faith in charities that claim to care for nature because the vast majority that are vocal really are just all about the money and not so about the wildlife. I have to question for instance, how any organisation, government or otherwise can claim to care for wildlife when at the heart of every single threatened species and environment disaster lays the issue of industrialization and economic growth? Growing a business or industry always comes before the health and welfare of any animal it seems, human or not! I am truly sick to the back teeth of this ‘Green Wash’ buzz word that pulls the proverbial wool over our eyes. I fully support the BHPS and have done for years. I have stickers in my car to keep them in the public domain and I rarely hear from them. No news letters, updates or anything until the Christmas catalogue comes round. It frustrates me but I won’t stop my subscription because I care passionately for hedgehogs and I know how little staff they have and how tight resources are. That just makes the whole RSPB thing even more irritating! In my humble opinion, I feel the RSPB should drop the campaign with hedgehogs out of a matter of integrity. Bread and butter animals that are dormice, GCN and now Hedgehogs should be left to the respective mammal and reptile groups trained and fighting for their cause.

  6. Mia-Louise must have fallen off the list as Mr W suggests. I’ve fairly recently had a newsletter – if she emails them I am sure they will put one in the post.

  7. I will just add this: if the RSPB are serious about their attempts to become the saviours of hedgehogs I hope to see them on the road shortly accompanying me to call outs – day and night – to hedgehogs in some sort of trouble. Call out sometimes from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, sometimes from the Naturalists Trust locally, sometimes from local vets by whom for some strange reason I am regarded as “The Hedgehog Bloke”.

    The RSPB unfortunately were nowhere to be seen when Mummy hedgehog and five attached babies were disturbed on a building site which was a round trip of 70 miles.

    Neither was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds anywhere to be seen on a call out last year via vet to a hedgehog which is “sitting on my lawn and seems to have blood on it.” They were not going out to it. I did.

    Hardly surprising it had blood on it. It did not have any legs left and bore all the hallmarks of a major strimmer injury or some other collision with major machinery.

    It was out of hours. To have the hedgehog put out of it’s misery cost me (forgetting the petrol) £21.43 for answering the phone.

    I am pleased to see the RSPB waking up to hedgehogs but will be even more impressed when they get involved in the front line of hedgehog rescue/rehab and turn out with me – they can go first if they want – and then pick up any subsequent bill for turning out.

    “Hello.” “We’ve been given your number by the British Hedgehog Society. There is a tiny hedgehog swimming about in our pond (11 a.m in the morning). It is very big pond and we can’t get it out. Can you help us?”

    As it turned out I could by lashing two child “shrimper nets” together and scooping it out.

    Only hedgehog I have recovered that was shivering with the cold. I did not know they could shiver. Placed on a pre-warmed heat pad – have heat pad will travel – and given antibiotics in case of water ingestion to the lungs leading to respiratory infection (like pneumonia).

    Given their new enthusiasm for the Hedgehog I look forward to being made redundant on these calls by someone saying : “Stand aside, I am from the RSPB.”

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