How You Can Help Hedgehogs
With hedgehog numbers in the UK dropping by a staggering two-thirds in the last 20 years, our gardens could make a real difference to their continued survival. The good news is that creating the ideal hedgehog habitat is actually very easy to do.
1. Connect your garden to your neighbours’.
Hedgehogs need to roam and tend to cover 1-2km every night, which our garden fences prevent them from doing. Create a 13 x 13cm (5 x 5”), CD-sized hole in fences and walls, which is big enough for hedgehogs to get through but too small for most pets.
2. Put out food and water.
Put out a saucer of meaty cat or dog food (not fish) to supplement their natural diet. Chopped, unsalted peanuts can also be given. A saucer of water can be very helpful, particularly during drier periods. Never give hedgehogs milk as it is likely to make them ill.
3. Create a wild corner.
Allow even just a small corner of your garden to grow a little wilder, avoid cutting back over winter until spring, don’t rake up all the leaves (great bedding for hedgehogs!), and keep a part of your lawn a bit longer - all of which will help to provide great havens for insects, and food for hungry hedgehogs!
4. Avoid netting.
Netting can be a deadly garden accessory in which small mammals like hedgehogs can become fatally entangled. Try to avoid and replace with a more rigid support, or at the very least keep it a foot or so above ground level.
5. Avoid lawn treatments.
Lawn treatments are known to reduce worm populations. Letting your lawn look after itself will not only allow more natural food sources for hedgehogs and other wildlife to prosper but will also allow some surprisingly beautiful wild flowers to begin adding colour and interest to your lawn too. That’s good news for the bees too!
6. Stop using chemicals.
Whether it’s slug pellets or insecticides, using toxic chemicals will kill off much of the beneficial insects that wildlife depend on. Creating a healthy balance in a well-planted, well-managed garden will encourage natural predators of slugs and other pests, such hedgehogs, frogs and thrushes.
7. Before strimming and mowing.
Get into the habit of walking over the area first to check for hedgehogs.
8. Make a log pile.
This is always in any NatureTree list of best things to do to help garden wildlife. Not only will it provide homes for many insects that hedgehogs can then feed on, you may also be creating the next hedgehog nest. And the chance of seeing little hoglets (usually around 4) being raised in your garden is an opportunity not to be missed!
9. Be quick to clear up rubbish.
Keep an eye out for any rubbish or litter that arrives in the garden. Polystyrene cups, plastic wrappers and bags, and elastic bands (often courtesy of Royal Mail!) all present real hazards for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are famously attracted to stacked bonfires – often with fatal consequences. So either build the bonfire on the day of burning, otherwise move and restack the bonfire on the day you burn it.
Thank you to Kevin Robson for use of the hedgehog image.