Supporting our hedgehogs

Not only are they adorable creatures, hedgehogs are great for our gardens, feeding on garden pests such as slugs, caterpillars and leatherjackets. But their numbers are falling. There were an estimated 36.5 million in the 1950’s which reduced to 1.5 million in 1995, and they have been falling at 5% every year since. This decline is thought to be due to the increase in farming intensity, loss of hedgerows, habitat fragmentation and decline in prey.

The good news is that domestic gardens can be an excellent habitat for them as long as they can move between gardens to find mates, nesting sites and food. They can travel a mile every night and could move around 25-125 acres during the whole summer.

Here are some things you can do to help:

1. Provide access: Make a 15x15cm whole in the base of your solid garden boundaries to provide access to other gardens and the wider landscape. Better still, when you need to replace a fence, add at least a small section of hedge.

2. Provide shelter: Log piles, leaf piles, compost heaps or bespoke ‘hedgehog houses’ in quiet, undisturbed places can provide a space for the hedgehogs when they are inactive during the daytime.

3. Provide water: If you have a pond make sure it has sloping sides or an easy way for the hedgehogs to get in and out. If you don’t have a pond use saucers of clean water on the ground,

4. Provide food: Don’t be too tidy, leave some fallen fruit. You can also provide some extra food such as wet cat food (chicken and turkey in jelly is best), cat biscuits, or commercial hedgehog food (but not bread or milk). This is especially important in autumn as hedgehogs need to fatten up before hibernation.

5. Protect them from harm:

• Avoid using pesticides and if you must use slug pellets use those based on ferric phosphate not metaldehyde which is more toxic.

• Check bonfires by lifting up the base and checking for noises, and light from one side only. Even better, build/move the bonfire just before you light it.

• Check long grass/under hedges before you strim/trim

• Be careful when turning compost heaps.

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