New stickers on Chelmsford City Council's strimmers and mowers remind operatives to check for hedgehogs before they begin cutting back hedgerows and long grass.
Provided by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), the stickers aim to protect Chelmsford's prickliest residents during their hibernation season and beyond. Twenty-two pieces of machinery now carry the bright yellow labels, which read 'Please check area for hedgehogs before using this equipment' alongside the Society's contact details.
Hedgehogs begin to hibernate when the weather gets really cold, around December or January, and they don't emerge from hibernation until warmer days arrive in mid-March to early April. The Council cuts back hedgerows and overgrown vegetation all over Chelmsford, South Woodham Ferrers and the surrounding villages, so staff are certain to encounter nests.
Councillor Bob Massey, Cabinet Member for Parks, said, "Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK. I was shocked to hear that, since the year 2000, there has been a decline of a third in urban areas and half in rural ones. I'm proud to see our operatives taking this step to protect these much-loved members of Chelmsford's wildlife community, and I would encourage residents to take care when gardening at home too."
The BHPS is encouraging councils across the UK to take part in the sticker scheme. Fay Vass, Chief Executive, said, "We have been delighted at the response to this campaign and thank Chelmsford City Council for getting involved. We hope that it will save many hedgehogs and would encourage gardeners and landlords to help further by ensuring that there is easy access in and out of gardens too - a 13 x 13cm hole at the bottom of boundary fences and walls will create a hedgehog highway that will help hedgehogs get around your neighbourhood."
For the full honour roll of all the councils that are using the stickers so far, visit www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.