Watch Out! There’s a Hedgehog About!
Nocturnal garden visitors
Hedgehogs are one of Britain’s best known nocturnal garden visitors. Found in orchards, vineyards, farmland, parks and gardens, they make use of compost heaps, flower beds and short grass to forage for slugs, beetles, worms and caterpillars. They are often referred to as the gardener’s friend as they eat the insects which devour garden plants and do no damage to the garden themselves.
Once common in our countryside with around 30 million in the UK in the 1950’s hedgehog numbers have declined dramatically over the last few decades. Now there are believed to be fewer than a million left. This may still sound a lot but this is a staggering 96% decline in the population in the last 60 years. There is no doubt that hedgehogs need our help.
Creating good hedgehog habitat is easier than you may think. Unlike some declining species, hedgehogs don’t need vast nature reserves to survive; they are just as happy in a series of interconnecting gardens as they are in woodland edges. All your garden needs are a few hedgehog friendly areas, such as a compost heap (although please don’t use a fork to turn it as this may injure anything using the compost heap), a hedgerow with plenty of cover, a space under your garden shed for them to nest in or you could even supply them with a small hedgehog house.
Like bird boxes these don’t take up much space in your garden, but they provide a much needed safe haven for the hedgehogs to shelter, sleep and even hibernate. Making your own couldn’t be easier. Instructions can be found on Tiggywinkle’s Wildlife Hospital Webpage in their fact sheets section. www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk However, if like me you were never any good at woodwork at school you can also buy them!
Another way of helping out is to take part in the British Hedgehog Preservation Societies Hibernation Survey or become one of their Hedgehog Champions! For more information on this please visit their website www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk.
Other ways to help hedgehogs include putting out some meaty dog or cat food (not bread and milk as this is harmful to the hedgehog), and also keeping your garden hazard free. Make sure you check an area of tall vegetation before using the garden strimmer, hedgehogs can easily hide in long grass. Make sure your rubbish bin is closed, hedgehogs can get caught up in household litter which has been blown out of rubbish bins. Don’t use slug pellets, the toxins in the slugs build up in the hedgehogs system and can be fatal to them. Instead you could try using plastic cups sunk into the ground with a little sugar water which will attract the slugs.