A RALLYING cry from Oxford’s very own ‘Mr Hedgehog’ has gone out on behalf of the declining spiny species.

Hugh Warwick, also known as Hedgehog Hugh, is today launching his new HedgeOX campaign to save the popular prickly creatures.

The miniature mammal's numbers have plummeted across the UK in recent years as its hedgerow habitats have been lost but Mr Warwick hopes to reverse the trend in Oxfordshire with the help of ‘hedgehog heroes’ pledging to do their bit.

Mr Warwick, from East Oxford, said: “We know that urban hedgehog numbers are down by 30 per cent in the past 17 years, and that for rural hedgehogs it is even worse, with the population down by 50 to 75 per cent.

“Hedgehog Street has been helping urban hedgehogs and there it looks like the decline for them is levelling off, but rural hedgehogs present a whole new set of complications that we are now looking at more closely.”

Ecologist and author Mr Warwick began working with hedgehogs more than 30 years ago including his efforts with the Hedgehog Street campaign – a conservation effort between the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

HedgeOX will focus some of that work in the county in a bid to halt the increasing fragmentation of populations.

The campaign is being funded by both BHPS and The Felix Byam Shaw Foundation which was set up in memory of the North Oxford schoolboy.

Felix passed away in July 2014 after contracting meningitis, his family and friends have continued his legacy through the foundation supporting many local causes in honour of his love of nature – especially hedgehogs.

Mr Warwick said: “Oxford has been my home now for nearly 25 years now and the county has a wonderfully diverse set of potentially hedgehog-friendly habitats, yet the population has fallen as much here as anywhere else. I want to reverse that.”

The campaign is calling for ‘hedgehog heroes’ to work with neighbours to make a ‘hedgehog highway’, cutting CD disk-sized holes in fences to allow hedgehogs to pass.

Farmers and gardeners are also being encouraged to plant more hedges and allow the ones already there the space to grow into a hedgehog habitat.

As part of HedgeOX Mr Warwick will also be running a Hedgehog Roadshow touring village halls, groups and clubs and teaching communities about how they can help.

The campaign will be officially launched at Oxford University Natural History Museum at 6pm today backed by poet Pam Ayers, from Stanford in the Vale, who will be reading her latest work The Last Hedgehog.

Details at hedgeox.org