THE HUMBLE British hedgehog. Twenty years ago, most gardens would have one or two of the grumpy-sounding, snuffling visitors, rooting through leaves, hoovering up cat food and slugs on their travels. Who would have thought such an innocuous little creature would become such a sad barometer of our relationship with the natural world?

Affected by climate change, urbanisation, landscaped gardens and fencing; a countless number of factors seem to have contributed towards their disappearance.

So, it’s frustrating to see yet another man-made introduction may be impacting on them. Margaret Handley from Boltby near Thirsk has written to the Darlington & Stockton Times to describe what she believes are local mink attacks on hedgehogs.

In her letter (in this week's edition) she details how until last summer she and her neighbours were feeding a thriving hedgehog population.

Then last autumn - after several mink sightings in the village and about the time two cats were found to have been bitten by the animals - they stopped appearing.

The mink currently present in the UK are another artificial introduction by the human population; derived from American mink brought here for fur-farming, which were either released or escaped over the years.

It’s frustrating to think these endearing, prickly natives of the British countryside are facing yet more odds stacked against them. And Spectator would pay handsomely anyone who came into their garden to hoover up slugs. So maybe it’s time to place some of those odds in their favour. After scouring the internet, it transpires there are many ways to help our prickly friends; one of the best ways is creating “hedgehog highways”.

Hedgehogs need to be able to roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites and cutting a 13cm hole in your garden fence or digging a channel beneath garden boundaries helps them do just this.

It may not be the grandest environmental gesture – and might be easier said than done depending on whether your neighbour minds you cutting holes their fence – but our hedgehogs may come to thank us for it.