THIS IS Hedgehog Awareness Week and for those who think that this must represent one of those classic eccentricities of an English spring, this year is has a deep and important purpose: research that could ensure the long-term survival of the species.
Hedgehog Awareness Week
Naturalists have become aware of a steep and sudden drop in hedgehog numbers - it could be as high as 25% in the past five years - and no-one is quite sure why. But it could represent a major threat to one of our most popular mammals and a set-back for the country's gardeners - hedgehogs eat literally millions of slugs and snails, the worst of all the garden pests.
In an attempt to discover what is causing this decline, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People's Trust for Endangered Species have joined with scientists from the Royal Holloway University, London, to launch a three year investigation. One of the aims will be to draw up a national hedgehog map to pinpoint where the animals are thriving - or facing steep decline.
To do this, the scientists are appealing for help from members of the general public to record and report hedgehog sightings under a programme called Hog Watch, and they would be delighted to receive help from school groups and other organisations.
For more information, see www.hogwatch.org.uk