My blog has been quiet recently for various reasons, but I am starting back up again with regular posts and what better way to start again, than with hedgehog awareness week.
Last year, a poll released in the BBC wildlife magazine found hedgehogs to be Britain’s favourite species, a wildlife emblem for our country if you like. However, it’s a sad fact that over recent years hedgehog numbers have declined. With less than 1 million left, down from approximately 36 million in the 1950’s, hedgehogs are becoming an increasingly rare sight in the UK’s gardens, parks and hedgerows but there are ways in which we can make things easier for our prickly friends.
1 RESCUE HEDGEHOGS
Sick, injured, orphaned or underweight hedgehogs can be saved by expert care, and many are released back into the wild. If you find an animal you’re worried about, contact your local hedgehog hospital, or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
2 KEEP IT WILD
Add a wild patch to your garden as a perfect daytime nesting area for hedgehogs. Allow a corner of your lawn to grow long, or sow a mix of native grasses and wildflowers. Leave this vegetation over winter as it provides a crucial habitat for many invertebrates – a garden buzzing with insects is a great garden for hedgehogs.
If you do trim down areas of your garden using strimmers or other cutting machines be sure to remember to check for hedgehogs. Many hedgehog injuries and deaths caused by collision with these items could be avoided with a quick check beforehand.
3 BREAK DOWN BARRIERS
Hedgehog corridors have been gaining attention and enthusiasm over recent years. So if you do nothing else, cut 13cm by 13cm holes in your fences at ground level, or make small tunnels underneath fence panels. Joint the movement at http://www.hedgehogstreet.org.
4 OFFER EXTRA FOOD
Supplement natural foods by offering meat-based cat or dog food, crushed unsalted peanuts, mealworms or raisins. This is most important if you spot any active hedgehogs in November–March, the usual hibernation period, when invertebrate prey is scarce.
5 PROVIDE NESTING PLACES
Speaking of hibernation, resting places are a must for hedgehogs in the winter months – leaning a piece of wood against a wall or fence can provide a cosy place for a sleepy hog. Alternatively, you can make use of old timber by making a wood pile, which is a perfect sheltered spot for hedgehogs, both during hibernation and in the breeding season (between April and September).
As an aside, ALWAYS check woodpiles/rubbish piles for resting hedgehogs before starting a bonfire!
6 GO CHEMICAL FREE
Using weedkiller on your lawn reduces the availability of earthworms, a key hedgehog prey item. Slug pellets and pesticides can also make hedgehogs very ill or even kill them if ingested. There are many alternative methods to keep your garden pest-free without the use of chemicals, besides, hedgehogs make for great pest controllers!
7 LASTLY: SPREAD THE WORD
Most importantly, get involved! Your family, friends, neighbours and local schools could all get involved to make your area hedgehog friendly.
If we all work together, we can make a difference and save the nations favourite species before it’s too late.