New hedgehog bridge idea to help animals cross busy Gospel Oak road

Survey finds spiky animals on the Heath – but they are isolated from others

Thursday, 26th May — By Dan Carrier

Bridge for hedgehogs

Gordon House Road near Hampstead Heath

A HEDGEHOG bridge could be built across a busy Gospel Oak road to help the spiky mammals go forth and multiply.

A survey has found the biggest population of hedgehogs in London are living on Hampstead Heath – prompting a plan to create a walkway so the colony meet up with other hedgehog communities nearby.

The Heath and Hampstead Society’s ecologist Dr Jeff Waage, who monitors wildlife on the Heath, is leading a new survey across Camden to find out where the creatures live and look at ways of helping join the separate groups together.

Dr Waage said: “We are looking at how to connect green areas and give hedgehogs more space. We want to know how we can improve hedgehogs’ ability to safely move about on and off the Heath and an option is to build a route for them to use.

“It could be a hog bridge, for example, to run alongside the railway over Gordon House Road.

“We know there is a colony at Kentish Town City Farm, but it is cut off from the Heath by a road. Nearby, there is the Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. We could bring them closer to the Heath this way.”

There have been similar successful projects in Camden before, with the HS2 railway project including a hedgehog underpass in Regent’s Park.

 

 

Dr Waage said: “We have identified parts of the Heath where hedgehogs are often seen. Parliament Hill Fields was a hot spot, and they like the allotments at Fitzroy Park. That’s because the soil is regularly dug up and there are lots of earth worms for them to eat. It is a real refuge for them.” But these scattered groups need help. Hedgehogs like a large space to roam and city living has squeezed their terrain.

Dr Waage said: “Hedgehogs have a problem that their ability to travel is blocked by walls and roads. If hedgehogs can move around – and they like to more than most animals – they can ensure the population remains healthy.”

He added that helping hedgehogs can mean doing something as simple as making a small hole at the foot of a fence to let the creatures move between gardens.

The project, which starts next month, will see motion-capture cameras placed at nature reserves in Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, Mortimer Terrace and on sidings and tracks managed by Network Rail. Heath staff have a good idea of how many hogs are on the common land, following a previous project in 2018 to count numbers.

Dr Waage said: “Over two weeks we found around 100 hedgehogs, making it central London’s biggest hedgehog population. We know there are around 20 in Regent’s Park and numbers have been declining. “We want to understand why, and try and help these populations hook up together and help build numbers.”

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