## People Keep Drilling Holes In Walls Around London For A Very Strange Purpose

 

Michel Birkenwald was drilling holes in walls before it became "cool" throughout the London area. Some may have found it to be a strange obsession, not understanding the monumental movement behind it. But now that word has spread about the mission behind the extensive drilling project, London residents are joining in, and all because doing so will protect a beloved British icon from danger.

Absence Makes The Heart

Michel Birkenwald used to be a jeweler with an affinity for animals. He noticed that there was an absence in his garden of a particularly prickly friend of the British, the adorable hedgehog. Sadly, the reason was his own doing, as well as the entire British population.

Andy Parsons/Time Out

Dangerous Relationship

"[The hedgehog] is a quintessentially British creature," said Ann Widdecombe, a former MP. She's not wrong — a 2013 poll crowned hedgehogs as Britain's national species — but while people were happily voting for their favorite woodland creatures, they were unknowingly contributing to their demise.

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Human Problems

In the modern age of technology, life has become easier for humans, but harder for animals. It's not just about life-threatening pollution and the looming dangers of global warming; in our haste to make our own lives more convenient, we've accidentally made animal lives that much harder and more dangerous.

Hedgehog Street

Small And Wild

Since hedgehogs are nocturnal and move about overnight, they're usually cloaked by darkness. This normally works in their favor, but every once in a while, they have to leave their homes in order to find food and to mate. That's when they run into problems — literally.

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Danger

Obviously, a hedgehog won't exactly look both ways before crossing a busy road. Too many times, people have left for work in the morning just to be greeted by a hedgehog tragedy in the street. People usually witness this and move on, but not Michel.

Slinky Pics/YouTube

One Simple Trick

"I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals," Michel Birkenwald claims. He may see himself as an "average" guy with a cool side project, but his organization, Barnes Hedgehogs, has been drastically changing the lives of hedgehogs for the better with one simple trick.

via Essential Surrey

Roaming Numbers *lonely hedgehog in field or something*

Since the new millennium began, the hedgehog population has gone down by roughly one third in urban areas alone — that's roughly one million! Michel had no background in zoology, but he did have something that he thought could help the little creatures: a diamond-tipped drill.

Hedgehog Street

Important Resource

Nowadays, there's a huge movement of gardeners across the country, with many still maintaining natural, grassy backyards — the perfect habitat for the hedgehog. The problem is, to reach the backyard, hedgehogs have to go through some non-hedgehog-friendly areas beforehand. That's where Michel and his drill comes in.

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Small Access

Since these grassy areas were blocked by dangerous roadways, Michel had to come up with a way for the hedgehogs to safely cross the street. The trouble was, he had to figure out a way to do so without impeding drivers. That's when he came up with an inventive idea.

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Handy Work

Michel started by asking his neighbor if he could drill through their backyard gate. Drilling through the old Victorian brick was slow, difficult work, but he knew how important those CD-sized holes would be. He just hoped his other neighbors would be willing to drill holes as well.

Hedgehog Street Organization

Hedgehog Highways

With their cooperation, Michel was able to create something truly extraordinary: a series of man-made shortcuts for the hedgehogs! He went the extra mile by creating signs for the mini walkway and dubbing them "Hedgehog Highways." The problem was, not everyone wanted to drill into their gate.

@barneshedgehogs/Instagram

Holesome Worries

People don't only have cosmetic worries when it comes to drilling holes in their fences and gates. Some people worry that their home pets will wriggle through the hole and run away. Others are concerned that animals who don't exactly have a hedgehog's heart-melting cuteness will use the tunnels as well.

@barneshedgehogs / Instagram

Unwanted Vermin

It's true that homeowners take a certain risk by allowing their yards to be a safe refuge for hedgehogs. By stocking their yards with piles of wood, leaves, and logs — a hedgehog's ideal habitat — there's a chance that they may not only attract hedgehogs, but unwanted vermin as well.

Michel Birkenwald/Barnes Hedgehogs

Don't Forget

There's also a worry that people will get so excited about helping hedgehogs that they'll end up domesticating them. According to Emily Wilson, a volunteer from Hedgehog Streets, it's important to remember that hedgehogs, as cute as they may be, are capable of taking care of themselves. Wilson also advises hedgehog enthusiasts against one common mistake.

Hedgehog Street

Creating A Safe Haven

When creating a hedgehog safe haven in your yard, do so by making piles of leaves and logs and by allowing your hedges to get a little overgrown. You can even put out cat food if you don't mind attracting other critters as well. Just don't, experts warn, put out milk — hedgehogs are lactose intolerant!

via Jo Edwards/Atlas Obscura

Joining In

Despite the minor push-back from some people, the response to the "hedgehog highways" has been positive. Emily Wilson says that campaigning for hedgehog tunnels really isn't a difficult sell. "Everyone seems to love hedgehogs...It’s a really, really easy ask." It's even more meaningful to Michel.

Hedgehog Street

"Hedgehogs need our help"

In a recent interview, Michel pleaded with his local community to do their part. "Hedgehogs need our help to survive, so please, let's do something about it!" he implored. In addition to proceeding with caution while driving at night, he also asked neighbors to join in with one more part of the hedgehog-saving movement.

Amar Mehta/Richmond & Twickenham Times

Tracking IRL

Through the group Hedgehog Street, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) teamed up with the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to make an interactive map marking the hedgehog population and where these hedgehog holes can be found. Even with these efforts, the danger of extinction still looms over the wild animals.

Hedgehog Street

Unfortunate News

It was only back in July of 2020 that the BHPS released an article announcing that the British hedgehog was growing even closer to extinction. Although this wasn't surprising news — "We have been at the heart of research that has charted the demise of the nation’s favourite animal," they said — they also saw it as an "opportunity."

@barneshedgehogs/Instagram

Commended Work

“What people do on behalf of the hedgehog is amazing...the holes made in fences, the feeding, the hedgehog houses, the wildlife-friendly planting, the removal of hazards — all makes such a difference locally,” the BHPS said. But even with these amazing efforts, the hedgehog still might not survive, not without help from the largest organization in the country.

@barneshedgehogs/Instagram

Need More People

BHPS CEO Fay Vass confessed that nothing much will change unless the British government steps in "to enforce wildlife-friendly practices, from farming to development to transport." Though our hedgehog friends' chances are improving with every little highway, we need more people like Michel, Emily, and Fay, and not just in Britain.

Hedgehog Street

From Crises to Cuteness

Woodland creatures are facing extinction everywhere, not just in rural Britain. It took a hedgehog crisis to wake the British up to the plight of their favorite furry friends, but it was another crisis altogether that motivated one man in a totally different country to get creative.

People's Trust for Endangered Species

Backyard Critters

Rick Kalinowski never considered himself a kooky inventor... until he found himself unemployed and stuck at home. Determined not to have idle hands — and to make a few much-needed bucks — he headed into the garage with a million-dollar idea inspired by a quick glance at the critters in his backyard.

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Forever Changed

Just like many others struggling financially through the global coronavirus pandemic, 43-year-old Rick Kalinowski was going through it. Things just weren't going to be the same for the Pennsylvania-based plumber and HVAC contractor.

Rick Kalinowski / Facebook

Tough Times

Rick was laid off from work in March 2020 after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe required "all non-life-sustaining businesses" close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. His stomach dropped. Times were tough, and he soon had to figure out a way to support himself.

Rick Kalinowski / Facebook

Searching for Purpose

"My jobs were larger construction jobs, and Pennsylvania put a stop to them. I was pretty much sitting at home, not sure when I'd get my next service call or be able to go back to work," the Bryn Mawr resident stated. He couldn't twiddle his thumbs all day long, though.

Rick Kalinowski / Facebook

An Odd Idea

With his spare time, Rick watched the squirrels roaming about in his backyard. While staring at the scattered animals, the oddest idea for a backyard project hit him, one that he hoped would eventually fill his bank account.

Peter Trimming / Wikimedia Commons

Woodworking

In Rick's garage was a makeshift woodshop. "I do work with wood quite often," he said. "And, after I was home for two weeks, I was running out of things to do!" So, thinking of the squirrels, he headed inside and went to work.

Steve Hummel / The Wood Whisperer

Hilariously Tiny

He remembered seeing a photo of a hilariously-tiny piece of furniture designed for squirrels a few years back, and he thought he'd recreate it from memory. The final product would be ridiculous and kitsch, but he had an interesting purpose in mind.

Rick Kalinowski

Tiny Squirrel Table!

It was a teeny tiny wood picnic table. "There were no plans, no drawings. I remembered what it looked like and just built it. Then I screwed it to the fence where I normally feed the squirrels," said Rick. He worried squirrels would just ignore the thing.

Rick Kalinowski

Surprising Turn of Events

So he was delighted to see the furry guys stop at the picnic table. Still, they just snatched the nuts Rick put out and went on their merry way. Once Rick set a cup of sunflower seeds on the mini table, however, the squirrels stayed to munch away.

Rick Kalinowski

"All About Squirrels"

See, Rick loved the fidgety rodent so much that he'd often act as a squirrel paparazzo. He couldn't help but snap photos of the squirrels sitting at his miniature, homemade picnic table feeder and post them in the "All About Squirrels" Facebook group. Still, there was a problem.

Rick Kalinowski

Getting Desperate

After his social media post, he had a long discussion with his husband, Brett, about their rocky financial situation. "I had a little money in the bank, but my husband is a restaurant server and out of work as well. I was getting nervous about rent," stated Rick. 

Rick Kalinowski / Facebook

Spreading the Word

The next day, the makeshift carpenter woke up to his squirrel Facebook post going viral, thousands of people interacting with his sweet photo. But it wasn't just that they thought it was a cute build; these Facebook users wanted a squirrel picnic table of their own.

SquirrellyTreasureCo

60 Orders Later...

"I was getting lots of friend requests and people sending me messages saying, 'I love your photo, would you build me one?'" Rick said. Soon enough, Rick had 60 orders to work on.

Rick Kalinowski

Seizing the Opportunity

Brett saw an opportunity, suggesting that the two of them start an Etsy shop devoted to the new squirrel picnic table business. In just 24 hours, their Etsy shop, which they named SquirrellyTreasureCo, had 400 orders. Cha-ching.

Rick Kalinowski

In Disbelief

"It all happened overnight, and it was beyond our wildest dreams. I'm still in disbelief," Rick exclaimed. But there was no time to sit and celebrate; he had to get to work! At first, Rick sold the picnic tables for $25 a pop.

SquirrellyTreasureCo

Keep 'Em Coming!

Each one came with a feeder bowl and mounting equipment. Rick eventually added DIY kits to the Etsy store, which soon amounted to half of the orders. The ideas kept stewing!

SquirrellyTreasureCo

Creative Thinking

"I predrill it, I give them the screws and parts with nice directions, and it's a family project that's perfect for people who are stuck at home right now," Rick explained. Plus, he sells his building plan, which comes with instructions and a design layout, for just seven bucks.

SquirrellyTreasureCo

Feeling Inspired

Rick even donated his building plans to organizations that offer wood shop classes. Meanwhile, the orders kept on piling in, so fast that he was forced to set up a waiting list. Rick was inundated with orders, and that only lit a more vibrant fire under him.

SquirrellyTreasureCo

Life After Quarantine

And Rick isn't too sure he'll be saying goodbye to SquirrellyTreasureCo once quarantine restrictions are lifted. "I have a solid plumbing business, but I'm seriously considering building this," he admitted. He's been basking in the joy his mini tables have brought people.

Chrissy K / Etsy

Future Career

"Now that the tables are starting to arrive at people's homes, they're taking photos and putting them on their Facebooks. And that's exciting for me!" Rick exclaimed. These photos of squirrels chewin' away have traveled beyond Facebook.

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Incredible DIY Builds

While Rick Kalinowski's homemade miniature picnic tables bring hilarity and squirrel fine dining to any backyard, others are spending their quarantines on their own incredible DIY builds.

Jennifer Fisher / Etsy

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