Helping HedgehogsNearly a quarter of the hedgehogs born into the world die before leaving their nest; about half of the rest do not live to adulthood. We can all assist hedgehogs that have endured these early adversities in several ways:-
- Providing as safe an environment as possible in our gardens and allotments. Always garden with wildlife in mind, even if you only leave a corner or edge as a wildlife sanctuary. You could be rewarded by the pleasure of seeing visiting hedgehogs and other wildlife, as well as the knowledge that they will be helping in clearing the ground of pests
- Accumulating materials – garden rubbish, leaves, brushwood, etc. – that hedgehogs can use to build nests. Nests are refuges by day, vital for breeding and winter survival depends on hibernating nests (hibernacula).
- Supplementing their natural diet of, beetles, worms, caterpillars and suchlike with some protein (e.g. meat based pet food, or crunchy meaty hedgehog/cat biscuits), particularly in periods of unseasonable weather. A bowl of clean drinking water should also be available at several sites around the garden.
- Seeking advice and taking immediate action when you see a hedgehog or hoglet in trouble.
- Assisting them to avoid man-made hazards and eliminating or reducing such dangers whenever possible.
ON THE ROADS
Most of us see more squashed hedgehogs than live ones. Their natural defence mechanism – rolling into a ball – is no protection against road traffic. All nature-loving people want to do something about this carnage. So, do drive carefully, especially at night, do all you can to avoid hedgehogs that may be crossing the road and if it is safe to do so stop and assist hedgehogs to get across quickly. Ask your friends to be kind to hedgehogs on our roads too. When you do see this sad sight please be sure to log it if possible at www.bighedgehogmap.org
MAKE YOUR MOTTO – SLOW DOWN FOR WILDLIFE
IN FARMING AREAS
Hedgehogs and many other small animals, as well as birds, frequently cannot escape from the sheer-sided pits beneath cattle and sheep grids. This results in a long drawn out death by dehydration and/or starvation. A simple readily available ramp in the grid solves this problem – ask your cattle grid stockists about hedgehog escape ramps.
IN GARDENSPesticides are potentially dangerous to hedgehogs and slug pellets are no exception. Hedgehogs may eat the pellets, and they are very likely to eat the poisoned slugs and snails. From April 2022 it will be illegal to sell or supply metaldehyde slug pellets for ourdoor use in the UK. We advise you do not use garden chemicals. Alternatives to chemicals can work very well, for example copper bands and tape are available to place round the base of plants or pots. “Beer-traps” (i.e. a bowl of stale beer or milk sunk in the ground) can be an effective way of killing slugs. In any case, as an extra precaution, all dead slugs should be regularly removed. Some people have reported success at protecting plants by sprinkling coffee grounds round the base (coffee shops will often let you have these for free). Any form of pest control affects the hedgehogs’ food chain, but barrier products like the copper and coffee grounds mentioned above means the prey remains healthy and safe for the hedgehog to eat. Garden rubbish frequently provides a home for hedgehogs and should be carefully turned over before burning. It is safer to make your bonfire on the day it is to be lit or to use a garden incinerator specifically designed for burning rubbish. The larger heaps that accumulate for 5th November, of course, should always be checked prior to the bonfire night festivities and preferably resited on the day. To keep hedgehogs out of the bonfire, or away from other hazards (e.g. holes in the ground), you can surround the bonfire site with an effective barrier such as ‘amphibian fencing’, the vertical plastic barriers used by ecologists to exclude amphibians. Always light bonfires from one side only to offer and escape route for anything you may have missed. Grass, especially if a little longer than usual, is another possible home for hedgehog families and care is needed before mowing and strimming. Cut the grass to a more reasonable length and then check again for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Never burn pampass grass without first checking there are no hedgehogs using it as a nesting place. Garden ponds can present a danger, hedgehogs can swim and are sometimes attracted to them, but they may drown if they cannot get out. Gardeners should ensure that there are slipways around the edge of the water to enable the hedgehogs to escape – half submerged rocks or even a piece of chicken wire to be used like a scrambling net are suggested. Pond levels should be kept topped up. Netting of all kinds – that used for covering plants and fruit, as well as tennis nets, fishing nets and suchlike – can be a major hazard as hedgehogs easily become entangled in them. their inquisitiveness can also get them into trouble if their heads stick in various kinds of containers – empty food cans, yoghurt cups, plastic mugs, fast food ice cream cups, etc. Perhaps even more deadly are the plastic rings that hold 4 and 6 packs of cans together because wildlife, including hedgehogs, can get trapped in them. Always make sure each circle is cut and dispose of them responsibly. What better reasons could there be for always picking up our litter?
AROUND & ABOUT
Hedgehogs are sometimes subjected to deliberate cruelty by heartless or thoughtless people. This is illegal. Should you see this occurring please contact the police and RSPCA immediately. If the unfortunate hedgehog is injured, get it to a Vet or a local hedgehog rescue centre as a matter of urgency. In any case, please also let the British Hedgehog Preservation Society know about it.