What’s lurking beneath the leaves?

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Take a look at the photo above, what do you think is living in this pile of leaves and bramble?

This photo was taken by Simon Phelps, our Your Wild Life project officer, in Yorks Wood, part of Babbs Mill park in North Solihull. Simon was working in the woodland with his volunteer group, who were restoring a section of the wood by removing invasive holly and bramble. A shout from one of the volunteers caused all to immediately down tools and flock to see what had been found.

To everyone’s delight and surprise, in amongst a pile of deep brown oak leaves, was a sleeping hedgehog. Clearly in hibernation, the hedgehog had fortunately not been woken by the work going on around it, and seemed to be content where it was. It was a magical moment, watching the leaves rise and fall as the hedgehog breathed in and out, in a slow rhythm that was symptomatic of its deep hibernating slumber.

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In order not to wake or disturb it, leaves were piled back over it, as well as some bramble and dry material, to insulate it for the coming winter. The site was then marked with some sticks so that the volunteers knew to avoid treading on it! Care was taken to ensure that it was adequately insulated and hidden, to give it the best chance of survival.

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It was a remarkable find, particularly in such a shallow amount of leaf litter on the forest floor. It was also interesting to note that it was found beneath thick bramble cover beside a pathway, which is the kind of vegetation that would normally be cleared for woodland ride restoration (which was the case for this discovery). Perhaps we need to be more aware of potential hibernating hedgehogs when doing winter woodland work. Food for thought!

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