Hedgehogs are a gardener’s delight and we should encourage them into our gardens wherever possible in my opinion.
Around one in four hedgehogs die before they even leave the nest. About half of the rest don’t make it through their first hibernation – see the British Hedgehogs Preservation Society’s Hibernation Report 20013/2014
What can we do to Help Hedgehogs Survive in our Gardens?
Hedgehogs will be emerging from hibernation during March as the weather warms and their food becomes more plentiful. You can feed hedgehogs on meat based petfood, meal worms, Weetabix moistened with water (NOT milk) and make sure you provide a shallow dish of water.
There are other steps you can take to encourage hedgehogs in the garden, including providing a safe hedgehog-friendly environment.
If you are about to strim long grass for the first time in a while please check it over for hedgehogs before you start. Females will often nest at the edges of the garden in long grass and you might find them or their young nestled under shrubs and bushes.
They love pampass grass too, so if you are thinking of burning or removing a clump please do check there are no hedgehogs first.
Be careful when choosing pesticides and slug pellets – use them sparingly and choose wildlife friendly products where possible. Slug pellets can be placed under stones so hedgehogs cannot get to them to eat them, but of course they may still eat the slugs that have consumed the insecticide.
Consider using beer traps, eggshells or copper bands to repel slugs and snails.
Please check piles of garden rubbish or bonfire materials before you light them. These piles of dry twigs and logs make a great nesting site for hedgehogs so please make sure you turn them over and check before you light the fire.
Hedgehogs are actually quite good swimmers, so they should survive a fall into a pond, but they will need gradually sloping sides or a ramp to be able to climb out again. You can use half submerged rocks, a piece of decking plank lowered into the edge of the pond, or some chicken wire to create a scramble net.
Hedgehogs will usually roam across many gardens to find food and mates, so leave gaps under fences or lay a drainpipe in a wall to allow them to get in and out so they have sufficient territory to stay healthy.
Fruit Netting and Containers
Hedgehogs are naturally inquisitive and can get into trouble trying to climb netting or investigating empty containers and the plastic rings on the top of bear cans. Please make sure rubbish is cleared away into bins with weighted lids and check netting for trapped creatures.
Store tennis nets carefully and keep pea netting and fruit netting about 30cm above the ground.
To attract wildlife to your garden, avoid being too tidy in your garden – allow some areas to run a bit wild. Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid-March and they use leaves for their nests, they are attracted to piles of logs or branches so if possible create some of these and then leave them alone for hedgehogs to find.
As well as creating a safe environment for hedgehogs in the garden, you can also take some other measures to protect them.
Hedgehog Road Sense
We have all seen hedgehogs squashed by the side of the road. A hedgehog’s defence mechanism is to roll up into a prickly ball. This is not much protection against an oncoming car, so please drive carefully, especially at dusk. Be aware of wildlife crossing the roads, particularly at night, and if it is safe to do so please stop and allow animals to cross.
Hedgehogs and Dogs
If your dog attacks hedgehogs consider putting it on a lead or using a muzzle if you are walking after dark. If you have hedgehogs in the garden try to warn them that a dog is being let out by turning on an outside light a minute or so before letting your dog out. If you notice that your hedgehog appears at a certain time of night try keeping the dog in during these times.
Cattle Grids are Wildlife Traps
Cattle grids form a trap for many small creatures and birds, if you have cattle grids on your land please consider fitting a small ramp in them to allow animals to get back out, and save them from a protracted death.
What to do with Injured Hedgehogs
If you find an injured hedgehog you should try to get it attention from a vet, local hedgehog carer or the RSPCA. Please call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for more help 01584 890801.
Use gardening gloves or workgloves to pick it up carefully, and place it in a box or cat carrier with an old towel or clothes or straw to protect it in transit.
Deliberately hurting hedgehogs is illegal and should be reported to the police or the RSPCA, if you see this happening please let the British Hedgehog Preservation Society know about it too.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has been set up to:
a) encourage and advise the public about the care of hedgehogs especially if they are injured, sick, treated cruelly, orphaned or in any other danger.
b) inspire children to respect our indigenous wildlife, by informing and teaching to create an interest in hedgehogs and their wellbeing.
c) fund research into the behavioural habits of hedgehogs and to determine the best methods to assist their survival.
For more information you can get in touch with them directly:
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Hedgehog House, Dhustone, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 3PL
Tel: 01584 890801 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk