Be a hedgehog hero this autumn

Hedgehog (c) Ronald Surgenor 

Everyone loves a hedgehog: they look cute, they can roll into a prickly ball, and they snuffle around munching pesky slugs and snails that devour our prized plants – a gardener’s best friend! But they are in big trouble. With just a few small steps you can help save our prickly friends, explains Andy Crory.

Seeing a hedgehog is a magical experience, but like many, I haven’t come across one in almost 18 years, except for a road fatality, and worse still, my children are beginning to think they’re fictional!

Sadly, hedgehogs are in trouble and have declined by a shocking 30%  in the last 10 years alone. There are now in a worse state of decline than tigers are worldwide. The main drivers are thought to be loss of green space in towns and gardens, intensification of farming, reduced insect prey from chemical use and isolation by fences and roads.

But before we all retreat to the garden shed in depression, there’s so much we can do to help these wonderful creatures.

Hedgehogs will be getting ready to hibernate soon (usually between October/November through to mid-March) and need to feed intensively, weighing at least 600gms if they’re going to have enough reserves to last the winter.  If you’re lucky to have one visit your garden, you could provide meat-based cat food and freshwater. Remember: it is important not to leave bread and milk out for hedgehogs as it can cause diarrhoea.  It is unusual to see a hedgehog staggering around during winter or in daylight, so if you do see one and it looks unwell, it might need a helping hand – contact an animal rescuer for advice.

 

Hedgehog feeding (c) Gillian Day

Hedgehog feeding (c) Gillian Day 

Other ways to help include cutting a small hedgehog hole (about the size of a CD) at the bottom of your garden fence – this will allow hedgehogs to get in and out of your garden in search of food and nesting sites and is the most important action if you live in an urban area. Pile up some logs and fallen leaves, and leave some patches of long grass - perfect for nesting and for attracting hedgehog prey. Purpose-built hedgehog homes also make great places for hedgehogs to hibernate. Ditch the slug pellets and avoid the use of pesticides.  Check for hidden hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, strimming and mowing the lawn. All so easy to do, yet will make a huge difference to these welcome garden visitors.

For more information, see our 'Help hedgehogs' page and download our free 'Get creative for hedgehogs' booklet.

Help hedgehogs

Simple actions to help our prickly friends thrive

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Hedgehog in feeding box  (c) Gillian Day 

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Goldfinch (c) Derek Moore