077: Take positive action for hedgehogs

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

From our guest writer Henry in England

Positive action for hedgehogs

IMPORTANT: If you find a sick or injured hedgehog, or if you find one showing signs of abnormal behaviour (e.g. active in daytime) you should ensure it is out of harm’s way and then seek expert advice. Do not try to treat the hedgehog yourself. In the UK you call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 for further advice and the numbers of local contacts or you can find details of suitable wildlife rescue centres and sanctuaries on https://helpwildlife.co.uk/rescues/. Hedgehogs are protected by British law under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are also protected in Britain under the Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996), prohibiting cruelty and mistreatment. See the end of this article for links to expert resources.

There are lots of small actions you can take to help hedgehogs, but why do they need our help?

In 1995 it was estimated that there were over 1.5 million hedgehogs in the UK, but recent estimates show this may have reduced by over 50%. The rate of decline is slowing, but they are still finding it hard to survive, especially in our urban areas. Hedgehogs have been voted Britain’s favourite mammal lots of times, but we aren’t doing enough to help them.

Why are hedgehogs helpful?

Hedgehogs are part of the natural food chain; they mainly eat creepy crawlies and are known as The Gardener’s Friend because they eat slugs, millipedes, leatherjackets and other invertebrates. They help keep the biodiversity of your garden in balance.

So how can I help?

By making your garden wildlife friendly!

A variety of plants, areas of shelter and making sure they have safe access to water (they can swim, but make sure they can get back out) will help our hedgehogs. Log piles, fallen leaves and an area left to grow wild will really help them too.  The Wildlife Trust has lots of great advice at https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/gardening

You can also put out food and water for them. The best food is a combination of meat-based dog and cat food, cat biscuits or specialist hedgehog food. You shouldn’t feed them bread or milk – this will make them ill as they are lactose-intolerant.

It’s important that hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden – they like to roam, and will cover up to a mile each evening searching for food or even a mate. To make sure they can do this you may need to create a Hedgehog Highway! A Hedgehog Highway is a hole cut into your garden fence or wall that allows the hedgehogs to move from garden to garden. The hole needs to be at least 13cm by 13cm. If you can replace the fence with a hedge, then that’s even better as hedgehogs can move below them, but you will also create a great habitat for birds and insects.

Remember to check with your neighbour first if the fence belongs to them! and once you’ve made your Hedgehog Highway please add it to the Big Hedgehog Map at https://bighedgehogmap.org

If you’ve left an area wild and have log piles available most hedgehogs will find somewhere to live and hibernate, but you might want to put in a hedgehog house – or hibernacula – in your garden. You can buy one, or make your own. I made one for our garden based on a design by the Natural History Museum (https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-to-make-a-hedgehog-house.html) but there are lots of great websites with instructions.

How can I keep hedgehogs safe?

In Spring, as hedgehogs start to come out of hibernation it might be the same time as you are starting to tidy your garden up. Be extra careful when mowing the lawn, or using a strimmer to make sure there aren’t hedgehogs in the way.

In late Autumn, hedgehogs prepare to hibernate. If you are having bonfires at this time of year, don’t build them in advance of setting fire to them, as hedgehogs might try and hibernate under them.

What else can I do?

Hedgehog Street (https://www.hedgehogstreet.org) is a collaboration between the People’s Trust for Endangered Animals and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society encourages you to share what you are doing to help hedgehogs with you neighbours and local community. The more gardens that are friendly to hedgehogs, and wildlife in general, the better for our ecosystems.

If you live near a new development or building sites, encourage the local council to make sure they are thinking about wildlife. Adding Hedgehog Highways to gardens and small tunnels under the roads would be brilliant. Lots of new housing developments are being built with fake plastic grass and hedges, and almost no natural environment, this creates a biodiversity desert that should be discouraged.

How do I find out more?

Download this guide by clicking on the image:

And visit these sites for more info:

Hedgehog Street – https://www.hedgehogstreet.org
People’s Trust for Endangered Animals – https://ptes.org
British Hedgehog Preservation Society – https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk
RSPCA – https://www.rspca.org.uk/…/gardenhedgehogs
Wild about Gardens – https://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk
Wildlife Trust – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/gardening

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