Nearly a quarter of the hedgehogs born into the world die before leaving their nest; probably a half of the rest do not survive their first hibernation. We can all assist hedgehogs that have endured these early adversities in several ways:-
1. Providing as safe an environment as possible in our gardens and allotments. Whenever possible a small corner should be left
as a wildlife sanctuary, the rewards of which could include the pleasure of seeing visiting hedgehogs, as well as the knowledge that they will be helping in clearing the ground of pests.
2. Accumulating materials - garden rubbish, leaves, brushwood, etc. - suitable for hedgehogs nests (hibernacula) and supplementing their natural diet of slugs, snails, beetles, worms, caterpillars and suchlike with some protein (e.g. meat based pet food, minced meat or crunchy hedgehog/cat biscuits), particularly in periods of unseasonable weather. A bowl of drinking water should also be available at several sites around the garden.
3. Assisting them to avoid man-made hazards and eliminating or reducing such dangers whenever possible.
ON THE ROADS
Most of us see more squashed hedgehogs than live ones. Their natural defence mechanism - rolling into a ball - is no protection against ROAD TRAFFIC. All nature-loving people want to do something about this carnage. So, do drive carefully, especially at night, do all you can to avoid hedgehogs that may be crossing the road and if it is safe to do so stop and assist hedgehogs to get across quickly. Ask your friends to be kind to hedgehogs on our roads too.
MAKE YOUR MOTTO - SLOW DOWN FOR WILDLIFE
Many pesticides are potentially dangerous to hedgehogs and SLUG PELLETS are no exception. Hedgehogs may eat the pellets, and they are very likely to eat the poisoned slugs and snails. We advise you to use GARDEN CHEMICALS sparingly and, if you must use slug pellets, put them inside pieces of pipe or under stones where hedgehogs can’t get at them. Alternatives to chemicals can work very well, for example copper bands and tape are available to place round the base of plants or pots (see www.organiccoppergardenproducts.co.uk). “Beer-traps” (i.e. a bowl of stale beer or milk sunk in the ground) can be an effective way of killing slugs. As an extra precaution, all dead slugs should be regularly removed. Some people have reported success at protecting plants by sprinkling coffee grounds round the base (coffee shops will often let you have these for free). Any form of pest control affects the hedgehogs’ food chain, but barrier products like the copper and coffee grounds mentioned above means the slug or snail remains healthy and safe for the hedgehog to eat.
GARDEN RUBBISH & BONFIRES
Can provide a home for hedgehogs and should be carefully turned over before burning. It is safer to make your bonfire on the day it is to be lit or to use a garden incinerator specifically designed for burning rubbish. The larger heaps that accumulate for the 12th July, Halloween and bonfire night, should always be checked prior to the NIGHT FESTIVITIES and preferably re-sited on the day.
MOWING AND STRIMMING
STRIMMERS MUTILATE - GRASS, especially if a little longer than usual, is another possible home for hedgehog families and care is needed before MOWING and STRIMMING. Cut the grass to a more reasonable length and then check again for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Never burn pampass grass without first checking there are no hedgehogs using it as a nesting place.
Hedgehogs can swim and are sometimes attracted to GARDEN PONDS, but they may drown if they cannot get out. PROVIDE ESCAPE ROUTES by ensuring that there are slipways around the edge of the water to enable the hedgehogs to escape - half submerged rocks or even a piece of chicken wire to be used like a scrambling net or when making a pond have a gentle slope to at least one of the sides. Keep ponds topped up, especially in hot weather so hedgehogs are less likely to topple in. Children’s paddling pools and sandpits are also a danger when filled with rainwater. Keep pots etc that might fill with water upside down.
All kinds of netting that is used for covering plants and fruit, as well as tennis nets, fishing nets and suchlike - can be a major hazard as hedgehogs easily become entangled in them. Keep all pea-netting a foot above the ground so the hedgehogs can go under it and will not try to go through it and become stuck. The same applies to tennis nets, football nets etc. Barbed wire should also be kept off the ground and never left trailing or carelessly discarded.
Their inquisitiveness can also get them into trouble. They can get their heads stuck in various kinds of empty food cans, yoghurt cups, plastic mugs, fast food ice cream cups, etc. What better reasons could there be for always picking up our litter?
4 & 6 PACKS
The plastic rings that hold cans together are dangerous because wildlife can get trapped in them. Always make sure each circle is cut.
Hedgehogs and many other small animals, as well as birds, frequently cannot escape from the sheer-sided pits beneath cattle and sheep GRIDS. This results in a long drawn out death by dehydration and/or starvation. A simple ramp in the grid solves this problem. The escape ramp for hedgehogs and other small animals is nothing elaborate. It is simply a slope of about 20o in one corner of the pit (preferably an “outer” corner i.e. a corner to which the cattle/sheep do not have access). It can be made of concrete, say 8” wide, or
of wood or metal. The surface should be allowed to remain rough to enable the escapee to gain a foothold. If it is impossible for an animal to gain access to the whole of the pit i.e. if it is sectionalised, more than one “ramp” would be required. Similarly in a very large cattle/sheep grid, two ramps would be preferable.
Keep drain holes covered: this stops both leaves and hedgehogs blocking the drain.
Repair wooden fences that blow down in the wind etc as soon as possible or hedgehogs may be tempted to make their nests underneath them. Leave a hole in fences or newly constructed walls so the hedgehogs can come and go. Use environmentally safe wood preservatives on sheds, fences etc as hedgehogs often lick new smells or substances – your garden centre should be able to advise. Very occasionally hedgehogs are found with a leg trapped in between the gaps in log rolls (used for edging) so check these and other hazards regularly.
Another ideal place for a hedgehog to make a nest and rear its young. Take care when turning the heap; one thrust of a fork can easily kill more than one baby hedgehog. The safest time to spread the heap is probably Oct/Nov when most babies have left their mum and adults have not yet started to hibernate. Partly used bags of compost may also have nesting hedgehogs in them.
Do not suddenly close doors which have previously been left open for weeks without first checking that there is no nesting hedgehog inside. Keep chemicals, oil etc in both sheds and garages out of the reach of hedgehogs.
If you have a dog that you know attacks hedgehogs try to warn the hedgehog when the dog is being let out eg turn on an outside light a minute or so before letting the dog out. For the dogs final patrol of the evening you might consider putting him on his lead or using a muzzle. These precautions should only be necessary at night. You may notice that hedgehogs have their own routine ie they appear at a certain time from a certain point. If this is observed keep the dog in during those times.
HAPPY HEDGEHOG WATCHING EVERYONE. PLEASE SEND US PICTURES OF ANY HEDGEHOGS VISITING YOUR GARDEN to [email protected]