There is no denying that those prickly little fellas are cute, but is that all they are? Is it possible that these little cuties are as important as they are cute? …and if they are important, are there any specific reasons why?
Of course, we absolutely adore them, and that in itself is enough to assure us of their importance in the natural world. However, they are actually far more important than many people could ever imagine.
In this article, we are going to be exploring whether hedgehogs are important (spoiler alert: they are!) and exactly why this might be.
Are hedgehogs important and why?
Yes, we are very pleased to report that not only are they the most adorable little animals in the world but they are also extremely important. The reason for this is because they are known as an indicator species.
What this means is that we can study the habits of hedgehogs as an indicator of the health of the environment and nature as a whole. To explore this in more detail we need to look into the dietary habits of the hedgehog (or the hedgepig as it was called in Shakespearean times!).
One of the main dietary sources for hedgehogs is soil invertebrates. These include worms among other creatures. As such, any environmental disturbances can be very detrimental to hedgehogs. If worms die off, so will hedgehogs.
Assessing the hedgehog population is one of the most vital ways we can keep track of the quality of the environment in which they are feeding.
To explain a little more, if the soil becomes contaminated because of manmade reasons such as the use of pesticides (which it is!)worms will not survive. As a result, hedgehogs will struggle to feed and will also die out!
As well as this, the loss of important hedgerows where these creatures nest has had a very detrimental effect!
With this in mind, it may come as no surprise that, in some places around the world, the hedgehog population is dramatically decreasing, especially given the state that we know our planet is in!
Keep in mind that whilst hedgehogs are extremely important in Britain, they are actually a non-native species in the United States. This means that in the wild, hedgehogs don’t exist.
Of course, some people may keep them as pets, but in the US their status is as an exotic animal. With this in mind, it is actually illegal for hedgehogs to be kept in a number of states! Certainly, they are not very important there!
Why is it important to protect hedgehogs?
From a conservationist point of view, protecting hedgehogs is vital. It is a necessity for our ecosystem.
As we mentioned in the previous section, hedgehogs are an indicator species, meaning that we can tell a lot about our ecosystem and the natural world simply by observing the habits of hedgehogs.
Seeing a decrease in hedgehogs certainly spells trouble!
If all of the hedgehogs were to disappear from the earth, it would be far harder to be able to track damage in our ecosystem and environment. Of course, we assume if they were to become extinct then it may well be too late for our natural world – isn’t that a terrifying thought?
As well as this, it is important to note that there shouldn’t have to be an important ecological issue in order for us to want to protect any animal. Hedgehogs have been on this earth for millions of years, so much so that they outlived the saber-toothed tiger!
Time and time again they have been voted as a favorite countryside animal, in countries all over the world. This alone should be enough to want to save them.
Is it illegal to kill a hedgehog?
Killing a hedgehog is, indeed, illegal! At least that is the case in their native land of the UK! Of course, we don’t understand why on earth you would want to kill a hedgehog, but there we go, I guess some people have no heart…
Anyway… we are pleased to report that, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Schedule 6) it is illegal to kill or capture hedgehogs. It is also illegal to treat them cruelly or mistreat them, according to the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996.
According to a British source, they are also classed as a “Species of Principal Importance” in Wales, England, and Scotland, as well as a Priority Species in Northern Ireland. This further proves their importance.
Of course, hedgehogs get killed in their hundreds every single day by passing cars on dual carriageways and motorways all over the UK. To some extent, this cannot be helped, especially since they are nocturnal creatures and drivers are not likely to be able to see them.