Hedgehogs Special Article - October/November 22
How To Help Our Hedgehogs
With their bristly bodies and snuffling snouts, hedgehogs are one of the nation’s favourite garden visitors.
Yet despite pleas for urban and rural gardeners to take better care of these cute animals, hedgehog numbers continue to decline at an alarming rate.
For anyone who’s ever chanced upon these little wonders, the plight of the hedgehog - in the last decade numbers have fallen by 30% - will feel like a real shame. After all, they are charming, nervous and largely harmless animals.
However, there are some things you can do to help our hog friends survive their current plight.
Create a nesting place for any expected hedgehogs by curating log and leaf piles, plus wilderness areas. In addition, buy a purpose-built hedgehog home to provide a safe haven. Fallen leaves also offer perfect nesting material, so make sure to leave some when you next clear your garden.
Supporting hedgehogs in the garden
You can support hedgehogs in your garden all year round by offering shallow dishes of water and supplementary food such as kitten biscuits or good quality hedgehog food. You can also put out meaty cat or dog food, but you must be careful to clean up the leftover food every day as the flies will lay eggs on it. Sadly, hedgehog food production is unregulated and there are quite a few unsuitable brands of food available in garden centres and some pet stores. If you have any queries about which hedgehog food to use, please check with your local rescue centre.
Create hedgehog highways
If you live in a terraced plot and have gardens that are side by side in a row behind the houses – and providing your neighbours agree! – make little tunnels through the garden fences so that hedgehogs can have a corridor between gardens.
This transforms your garden from an isolated nature reserve into a spiny mammal thoroughfare, which is fun for all concerned.
Put away the pellets
There is no need for slug pellets when you have a thriving hedgehog population. From 1st April, slug pellets containing an organic pesticide called Metaldehyde have been banned from sale. They pose an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals such as hedgehogs.
A vital feature for hedgehogs in your garden is long grass and a wood pile, where they might hide away and feel safe. These areas will also encourage insects which form the main diet of hedgehogs and provide them with a ready source of food.
Hibernation varies around the country, it can be dependent on temperature and weather conditions, and the availability of food and water. Some hedgehogs don’t hibernate at all, and others just dip in and out of hibernation. From a hibernation perspective, there is still plenty of time, in the majority of cases, for weight to be gained before winter. A hog can weigh 600g and be completely healthy. Another hog can weigh 600g, be completely underweight and carrying a huge internal parasite burden. There are other factors to look for rather than just weight, such as body shape and other indicators. Please do not intervene unless it is absolutely necessary as this causes stress to the hedgehog, which in itself can be harmful.
What to do if you find a poorly hedgehog
A hedgehog out in the day is a cause for concern as well as one that may have been injured or attacked. Signs for concern include a hedgehog that is wobbly on its feet (it is dehydrated), is covered in flies and/or fly eggs (they look like tiny grains of rice – often seen around the eyes and in between the spines), a hedgehog being pestered by birds, covered in ticks, or wandering around in circles.
Finders must wear gloves to pick up the hog and place it in a high sided box with newspaper and an old towel or tea towel in the bottom. Please place an old water bottle containing warm water to keep them warm. Then cover the box with another towel as hedgehogs do not like to feel exposed and they will settle better. Please do not offer food to them, they can gorge on the food which can cause them to collapse. Just offer some water, keep them in a quiet spot away from your pets and call your local rescue centre. The rescue centre will assess them and give them the appropriate food and treatment according to their condition.
Local Rescue Centres
Hedgehogs Rest Rescue, Coventry. Tel: 07866 376817
Warwickshire Hedgehog Rescue (Leamington & Warwick). Tel: 07771 996952 / 07833 520504
Barnacle Hedgehog Rescue (Coventry & Warwickshire). Tel: 024 7610 1817
Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary (North Warwickshire). Tel: 024 7634 5243
Heronfield Animal Rescue Centre (Knowle). Tel: 01564 773406