Hedgehogs are my favourite animal, but they are declining fast! They’re now classified vulnerable to extinction.
What can we do to help?
Well you can play a massive part in helping out these gorgeous mammals to ensure their population grows and flourishes, so I wanted to share some easy tips that I love, from David Domoney, to help our spiky friends and invite them to our gardens.
House a Hedgehog
Typically seeking out a secure place to shelter and breed, a pile of logs is the perfect spot for hedgehogs to hibernate.
Start by collecting wood and choose a quiet and undisturbed section of your garden to set it up. Log piles or piles of leaf litter are great for shelter and they’re a great source for food as plenty of insects will find them appealing places to shelter too.
Create new habitats by leaving piles of leaves and other vegetation in secluded parts of the garden in autumn. Good spots include underneath hedges and by ponds (remember to have an escape ramp) or other water where they like to drink. You can also rest a small board against a sheltered wall and fill the gap with dry leaves.
Did you know as many as ten hedgehogs visit a garden in the night? It isn’t just one ‘resident’ hedgehog, but many! One single garden won’t provide everything that hedgehogs need so your garden is part of their wider network.
Reg the Hedge at Haydock Hedgehog Helpers, where I volunteer.
You can supplement a hedgehog’s natural diet to give them a helping hand. This is doubly as important in autumn when they need to accumulate fat before they go into hibernation. Try putting out a bowl of good quality cat or dog food or some cat biscuits and plenty of water to drink.
Remember to clean up any uneaten food daily and wash up the dish it was placed in. Please do not feed them milk or give them bread as this can upset their stomach. Stick to plain, fresh water, in a shallow dish near the food and clean and change this regularly.
Remember that this will only ever be supplemental: a hedgehog’s natural diet consists of bugs, slugs, snails, beetles, caterpillars and earthworms. So, all being well they will have plenty of food to choose from in your garden and will continue to forage for themselves as well as eat the food you put out for them.
To make sure your garden is a safe and secure space for hedgehogs, there are a few things you can do:
- If you have a pond, ensure there is a gentle slope to allow hedgehogs to get in and out, they’ll love the water and the amphibians and insects that the pond attracts.
- Check areas very carefully before mowing and strimming.
- Cover any drains or deep holes so hedgehogs don’t fall.
- Check your compost heap before digging the fork in to turn or take out compost.
- Avoid letting you dog into the garden at night on their own.
- If you see a hedgehog during the day, it may be distress, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice.
- Avoid the use of chemicals in the garden as this has a impact on your garden’s natural food chain and hedgehogs may accidentally eat something that will do it a mischief.
- Ensure there is no litter around your garden. Hedgehogs are inquisitive and some waste can trap a hedgehog which leaves them vulnerable or can cause injury.
Encourage these creatures into your garden and they will repay you by creating harmony with insects. By creating hedgehog friendly spaces and encouraging your neighbours to do that same, they’ll keep coming back and our native numbers will flourish.
At Green Town St Helens we are passionate about our local hedgehog population and spend many hours volunteering and fundraising for Haydock Hedgehog Helpers rescue. We also host many online educational classes, delivered by Kelly Leyland at the rescue, so you can learn about these charismatic animals and help the species thrive.