“Ghost hedgehogs” are starting to appear on roadsides in Dorset to highlight the plight of hedgehogs killed by fast-moving vehicles. The hedgehogs, made of white-painted wood, are being put up by the Dorset Mammal Group after one small village, Pimperne, reported more than 20 squashed hedgehogs on its roads in just one year. It is hoped that the spectral hedgehogs will encourage motorists to slow down and drive with more care.

Hugh Warwick, an ecologist supporting the campaign, said, “The hedgehog, the nation’s favourite animal, has just been added to the UK Red List of species as ‘vulnerable to extinction’. This is tragic. Hedgehogs provide a point of connection to the natural world more effectively than any other animal. They share our gardens and green spaces – but for that to happen, we need to help them.”

Hedgehog populations in rural areas have halved this century and fallen by 30% in towns and cities, with the population believed to have declined by more than 90% since the second world war.

The ghost hedgehogs campaign is part of an attempt to make Dorset the most hedgehog-friendly county in the country, with a fundraising campaign for a hedgehog hospital and support for “hedgehog highways” – holes cut in fences to enable the mammals to pass more easily through gardens in search of food.

“We are creating hedgehog-friendly towns and villages, working with schools, training land managers, engaging in research, and encouraging people to become part of a network of rehabilitators,” said Susy Varndell, hedgehog leader of the Dorset Mammal Group.

An online petition created by Warwick calling on the government to ensure that all new houses include “hedgehog highways” – 13cm diameter holes cut in fences – has been signed by more than 800,000 people.

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