Simpler road signs to protect small animals and boost safety

Hedgehogs and other small animals will be better protected on English roads under rule changes announced last month to make it easier for local authorities to put up wildlife warning signs.

The current hedgehog sign will be updated following feedback from the sector to make it clearer for drivers. Alongside this, rules around the small wildlife warning signs will be relaxed to make it easier for local authorities to put up small wildlife warning signs, helping to better protect hedgehogs and other small animals.

Changes made by the Department for Transport (DfT) will ensure local authorities are able to place small wild animal warning signs where they are needed most rather than having to apply to DfT on a case-by-case basis.

To mark the change, Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, visited Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in Buckinghamshire to meet a host of furry – and spiky – friends, many on the mend from road accidents. Touring the facility, he witnessed a hedgehog undergo surgery for a leg injury, ran a bath for hydrotherapy treatments, helped to weigh animals and witnessed one hedgehog pose in front of the new-look sign.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to see behind the scenes at the famous Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, where I witnessed the incredible work they do to heal a wide range of wildlife. 

“These common-sense changes will lead to more small animal signs across the country, cutting down on bureaucracy to help protect both drivers and small animals, improving safety on our roads and making sure fewer casualties are checked into wildlife hospitals like these.”

The small animal warning sign depicts a hedgehog and was first introduced in 2019. As well as cutting the restrictive red tape preventing them being placed, the government has also refreshed the design by adding white quills to the hedgehog’s back. This will improve clarity and make it more visible from a distance for all road users.  

The changes will also help protect vital crossing routes for hedgehogs and other small animals, particularly on rural roads. Hedgehog numbers have dropped by between 30% and 75% in rural areas since the millennium, with traffic a major factor in the decline. 

Colin Stocker, Chief Executive Officer at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, said “On behalf of myself and everyone here at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, we were delighted to welcome Mark Harper to the hospital to hear more about the policy change that will make the process for erecting small animal road signs easier.

“A lot of the 14,000 animals admitted to us every year come in due to road traffic accidents and making motorists more aware of their presence, and encouraging them to be more cautious is a great step towards helping British wildlife.

“We were able to show Mark around our hospital and he was able to see some of the patients we currently have and meet the veterinary team behind the lifesaving work carried out here. We hope this policy change will result in more signage that, in turn, will remind motorists to be mindful of British wildlife when out and about.”

The announcement will help reduce bureaucracy for local authorities, allowing them to focus their resources more effectively on delivering for their communities. It follows recent announcements committing to improving conditions for motorists across the UK under the Plan for drivers.

The Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital was established by Les and Sue Stoker in 1978 as a refuge for injured animals to receive treatment and rehabilitation.

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