A wildlife expert was last night working with housing officials to save hedgehogs as contractors started to dig up hedges.

Vicky Greenwood, who runs the Oggles hedgehog rescue service, has already saved two animals after work started on the Rawthorpe estate.

Contractors are removing overgrown hedges at homes where tenants cannot maintain them.

But Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing officials stressed that many would be staying and checks would be made to try and save all the hedgehogs.

Ms Greenwood said: “The estates provide a safe haven for so much wildlife. Hedgehogs make their homes in these hedges because the estates are relatively quiet at night, with little traffic.

“They can safely wander about at night and a hedgehog can roam up to three miles in one night and they want a safe haven.

“People don’t get the chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat and as far as hedgehogs are concerned, the habitat is now our housing estates.”

One of the two hedgehogs rescued by Vicky Greenwood of Dewsbury Moor after hedgerows were being cut down by Kirklees Council
One of the two hedgehogs rescued by Vicky Greenwood of Dewsbury Moor after hedgerows were being cut down by Kirklees Council
 

One of the rescued hedgehogs, a female, has an injured leg and will be treated by a vet. The other was a large healthy male weighing 1,100 gms.

Both will be kept by Ms Greenwood at her Dewsbury Moor sanctuary until they are well enough to be released into the care of an animal-lover with a garden.

Britain’s hedgehog population has suffered an alarming decline since 1996, according to research by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, British Hedgehog Preservation Society and other organisations.

It was in light of this decline that Vicky decided to set up her one-woman operation, named after her first rescued hedgehog, Oggie.

A KNH spokesman said that after extensive consultation with tenants and residents on the estate, they had made the decision to remove hedges and replace them with fences, but intended to leave many hedges in place.

“All hedges between owner-occupied houses will remain, and over a third of the estate is privately owned. All tenants who wish to keep their hedges can keep them, providing they trim them regularly.

“The reason for removing some hedges is that we found that on a previous fencing scheme the removal of hedges opened up gardens and encouraged tenants to cultivate and tidy them.

“Moreover, in Rawthorpe there are several overgrown hedges that residents can no longer maintain, because they are too high to reach, because they cannot afford the equipment, or because they are too elderly or ill to do the work.

“We understand how important hedges are for hedgehogs. Indeed, one of our tenants chose to keep the hedge because there was a family of hedgehogs living in it.

“Before they start any work, contractors will be searching the hedges that residents have asked to be removed, and if they find any hedgehogs, they will be contacting Vicky so she can rescue the animals.”