Tidy Tayside gardens are harming hedgehogs and homeowners are being asked to cut holes in fences to help the struggling mammals escape.
Wildlife workers are so concerned by dwindling numbers they are asking homeowners to adapt their gardens to make it easier for them to survive.
The changes include cutting a CD-case sized hole in garden fences to create ‘Hedgehog Highways’ so the animals can move between gardens in their search for food.
Catherine Lloyd of Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, said: “Our over-neat gardens don’t provide the insect life hedgehogs need to eat – and of course slug pellets and insecticides used in gardens have a seriously detrimental effect on our ‘hogs with many of them poisoned or starved because of it.
“Hedgehogs also need a fairly large area to forage so they are often hemmed in by our neat fences or walls,” she added.
The ‘Mind the Gap’ project began in Forfar last year and is now being extended to Carnoustie and Barry.
Angus Alive rangers worked with the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership in piloting the approach.
Local residents signed up as Hedgehog Champions and took part in UK-wide Hedgehog Street surveys.
Volunteers put up hedgehog-aware road signs and checked gardens to ensure suitability for the mammals.
A small number of hogilos, or hibernation boxes, will be placed in local gardens around Carnoustie.
Garden owners are also being asked to cut a 13cm x 13cm hole in garden fences to help the hogs get about.
“Our ‘hogs need to explore around a mile a night to find enough food,” Catherine explained.
“We will be giving ready-made signs for householders to fix next to any gaps in their fences or hedges.
“Anyone can make a hole for hedgehogs to pass through in their garden – though best to get your neighbour’s permission first of course.”
She said hedgehog numbers are declining fast. “What just 20 years ago would have appeared to be a strange project is now a much-needed one.
“The reasons for the decline are many – deaths on the roads is a major one, but poor weather can mean some hedgehogs have young much later in the year and these youngsters don’t have time to put on the necessary weight to see them through a winter of hibernation.”
The Carnoustie Golf Links Community Benefits Grant has provided funding for the project’s local roll out.