Hedgehogs Need Our Help
Hedgehogs are one of our most popular and adorable little mammals. Largely nocturnal they are often heard as they go rummaging around our gardens looking for slugs and snails. They help us to keep down many of our garden pests. Sadly there is nowhere near as many of them about these days. Around one third of our hogs have been lost over the last ten years and they desperately need our help. Urban gardens represent a vitally important habitat where hedgehogs can feed, breed and hibernate. These are the Top 6 things we can do to help reverse this decline.
Top 6 Ways to Help Our Hedgehogs
1. Install Hedgehog Highways
Hedgehogs need to travel up to 3 kilometres each night to gather their food, seek shelter and find a mate. They need easy access to our gardens. Gaps in fences are essential and with our modern tendency to box everything in these are not always present. Check your own fences and if there are no gaps install a Hog Highway. Basically these are holes 13cm x 13cm cut in the bottom of our fences.
2. Provide a little extra food and water
Hedgehogs normally eat slugs, snails and a whole variety of invertebrates. They will however, happily adapt to tinned dog food mixed with some broken dog biscuits. Contrary to popular belief do not feed milk and bread as it will make them ill. Feeding in autumn is particularly beneficial as they need to attain a minimum body weight if they are to survive hibernation. A feeding box like the one shown will keep out cats and dogs and make feeding and checking each day a joy.
All life needs water so why not build a wildlife pond
3. Do not use slug pellets or pesticides
Thes chemicals can be directly toxic to hedgehogs. In addition they will build up in the environment and contaminate the whole food chain. Use other hog-friendly methods of controlling slugs such as beer traps. Pest numbers in gardens that are regularly visited by hedgehogs are controlled in a much more natural way.
4. Build an open compost heap
A great way to increase the supply of worms, beetles and a whole host of tasty creepie-crawlies is to build a compost heap. Hedgehogs will love to gobble these up. If you can, form the edging with logs to further enhance this habitat. Add leaves in autumn and keep disturbance to an absolute minimum.
5. Provide somewhere safe to hibernate
Ideally this would be a purpose-built hibernating box specially designed to provide safe, dry and warm conditions over the winter period. Failing that then a pile of leaves and twigs in the form of a compost heap will provide a great place to spend the winter.
6. Provide escape routes for ponds
Hedgehogs can so easily drown if they fall into a body of water that lacks a means of escape. Always provide a shallow ramp for them to escape if the worst should happen.
If you are not sure whether or not you have hedgehogs around then an excellent way to answer this is to put out a footprint tunnel for a few days. These are simple to use and rely on hedgehogs entering a baited tunnel and leaving behind characteristic footprints from a harmless inkpad placed at the entrance.
If you are successful and manage to get some footprints then please take the time to report your sightings. This information is invaluable in estimating population trends and the effectiveness of conservation methods.
Finally if you live in Suffolk, we are lucky enough to have our own Hedgehog Officer, Ali North. She would be delighted to hear from you and you can get involved in many exciting projects and become a local Hedgehog Champion.