The Hedgehogs of Severus Hill

Dr Toni Bunnell local wildlife biologist explains the importance of sites like Severus Hill for urban Hedgehogs.

Dr Toni Bunnell

4/10/20243 min read

As a wildlife biologist, and someone who has singlehandedly run a hedgehog rescue in York since 1990, I am sure that many of the hedgehogs that have been brought to me over the years have come from the area surrounding Severus Hill. Replacing the Hill with houses would have a serious detrimental impact on hedgehog populations in the area, bearing in mind that this is a species under threat of extinction in the UK.

The European hedgehog in the UK is in dire straits. A rapid decline in numbers over the past 40 years has resulted in a situation known as critical endangerment. This means that the species is under threat of extinction due to the speed of decline.

Critical endangerment means that the numbers have fallen by 97% in this short time period.

In 2020 hedgehogs were put on the IUCN Red List, being classed as vulnerable to extinction. The reasons for this catastrophic decline include habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and overuse of pesticides resulting in a 35% reduction in invertebrate numbers (the main food source of hedgehogs) in the past 45 years.

In view of the above, areas where hedgehogs are known to exist must be treated with more consideration than is currently the case. It has been established that populations of hedgehogs exist in significant numbers on Severus Hill.

Severus Hill a wildlife area of great importance in terms of biodiversity of wildlife in general. The hill itself does not stand alone, rather it forms part of a green corridor.

Green corridors are crucial to allow all manner of wildlife, in particular small mammals such as the hedgehog, to travel from one area to another in search of food and nesting sites. York is lucky in that it possesses a surrounding wall which circles the city. For the most part this wall serves to act by sheltering a green corridor, amongst which live many species of wildlife, including hedgehogs.

I have been privileged to observe the movement and subsequent survival of hedgehogs I have released to the grounds of York Minster. Footage collected from motion-sensitive cameras revealed that hedgehogs that I had released, following restoration to full health at my rescue, survived for many years. This success was due to the ideal environment provided by the green corridor that lies alongside the York walls. Severus Hill is an essential part of this green corridor network and must be protected to ensure the survival of hedgehogs.

Once destroyed, reinstatement of habitat to its previous state is not possible. It is crucial that everything possible is done to ensure that Severus Hill, and its present wildlife inhabitants, are left untouched.

You can donate to save Severus Hill here -

About the Author:

Toni is a retired lecturer and Wildlife Biologist. In 2017 she was presented with an award at the House of Lords by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The award was for outstanding achievement in the field of hedgehog care and conservation. She runs a hedgehog rescue in York and keen to ensure that habitat crucial to the continued existence of threatened species such as the hedgehog is not removed. Toni has appeared on Countryfile, The One Show and Love Your Garden.

She has several published books, including:

"The Disappearing Hedgehog" available for purchase here -

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