Be a hedgehog helper this summer
May marks national Hedgehog Day in the UK and we thoughts we’d celebrate by finding out more about these wonderful creatures. Their numbers are in long term decline as their traditional habitats – hedgerows and meadows – disappear, both in the UK and across the rest of Europe and Asia.
Numbers have fallen by half in rural areas over the past twenty years, and researchers estimate there are now fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK.
But a 2018 report by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society offers a glimmer of hope – with hedgehog numbers rising in urban areas over the past three years.
So how can we help care for these magical and much loved animals as we enter summer?
Create a hedgehog-friendly garden
If you have some outdoor space, there are plenty of ways to make it more hedgehog friendly. Hedgehogs roam over a mile each night – your garden is unlikely to be big enough unless you’re lucky enough to have acres.
So the most helpful thing to do is to create safe hedgehog highways by making a small hole in your fence allowing hedgehogs to pass through. If you get your neighbours to do the same you can create a hedgehog street!
Hedgehogs love messy, wild spaces to nest in and snuffle around for insects. Create log or leaf piles, or just leave a spot in your garden to go wild without any guilt about it looking untidy – hedgehogs will love you for it!
If you have a pond, hedgehogs will love to drink the water and eat the bugs. Just make sure there’s a ramp so hedgehogs can get out. They can swim, but will struggle to get out of ponds if they have steep sides.
Provide nutritious food
The ‘leave out bread and milk’ advice from decades ago is fading… but just to be clear, hedgehogs are lactose-intolerant so milk is a bad idea. A bowl of water is welcome, as is cat food (wet or dry).
They love insects and got their name from snuffling about in hedgerows, so steer clear of pesticides – they will poison the hedgehogs and their favourite food.
Watch out for daytime hedgehogs
Generally, if a hedgehog is out in the daytime it’s in trouble, as hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures. If they are out in the daytime it can mean they are cold, or desperate for food.
Sometimes healthy females are out during summer days foraging for nesting materials, so it’s not always a bad sign, especially if the hedgehog is looking alert and healthy. Try a local wildlife rescue service, or contact the 24 hour helpline at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital to seek advice.
Become a hedgehog champion
If you’d like regular, up to date information about keeping hedgehogs safe and helping others do the same, you can become a hedgehog champion! The Hedgehog Street campaign is looking for people to spread the word about hedgehogs in their local neighbourhoods, so if this is something you’d like to support in your school, road or nursery, you can sign up to their hero for hedgehogs scheme.
If you’re lucky enough to see a hedgehog this summer – do share your stories with us!