"We are continuously destroying our hedgehogs homes, forcing them to reside amongst ourselves in an unsuitable habitat, facing daily challenges to their detriment."
Before I get into this post, it may be worth your while, if you haven’t already, to go ahead and read my post about my visit to the West Midlands Hedgehog rescue to gain a bit of background info.
As I mentioned in that post, Britain’s hedgehogs are in need of our help. People like Joan at the West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue are being inundated with calls about sick and injured hedgehogs needing rehabilitative care, with no national or government funded schemes in place to help. Whilst we are incredibly lucky to have such people dedicated to helping our hogs in need, we can also do our bit to give our hedgehogs a helping hand.
I’ll get on to how later on in this post, but firstly we need identify what it is that’s causing such huge numbers of hogs to end up in rescue in the first place, and why they aren’t living to their full life expectancy. Now on the endangered list, their numbers are dwindling year after year, due to farming practices, housing expansion, and general garden grooming to a meticulous level. We are continuously destroying our hedgehogs homes, forcing them to reside amongst ourselves in an unsuitable habitat, facing daily challenges to their detriment.
Pools and Ponds: Hedgehogs can swim but not for very long, meaning many who find their way into them rarely find their way back out due to being unable to climb back out.
A loss of Hedgerows: As their name suggests, the Hedgehog relies on hedges and hedgerows as a main source of habitat, however more and more are being stripped away, especially in the agricultural and farming industry.
Slug Pellets: Not many people want slugs in their garden, so they are often deterred against using slug pellets. These are ingested by the slugs to poison and kill them, however this has a ripple effect unknown to some. Hedgehogs eat the poisoned slugs, becoming poisoned and often dying themselves.
Garden twine / Netting: Hedgehogs are often getting caught in netting or tangled up in garden twine. Due to the formation of their prickles, once past their heads, they are unable to get free of the netting, and the twine causes such tight constriction it often results in limb amputation.
The Autumn Litter: Female hedgehogs will sometimes have a second litter in the autumn. The hoglets need to be at least 600 -700 grams to make it through the winter, but challenge of food scarcity paired with a lack of time means many don’t make it through. It’s around this time that Joan begins taking in around 10 hoglets a day, feeding them up through the winter until release in February when it gets milder.
Bonfires: A more widely known threat to hedgehogs. Bonfires built in advance provide the perfect resting area for hedgehogs and are often lit without being checked. A hedgehog’s instinctive reaction when frightened is to curl into a ball, meaning they get burnt alive in the process.
Sheds: We are all guilty of leaving our shed doors ajar for a few hours if we’ve been working in the garden, or maybe too and fro-ing from a task requiring ‘shed housed items’. It’s easy for a hedgehog looking for a safe dry place to rest, to slip in unnoticed. The problem arises when we lock up our sheds without realising its little visitor, resulting in their starvation.
Cars: A huge problem for a lot of wildlife. The nocturnal activity of the hedgehog puts them at an even greater risk of being ran over, due to the reduced visibility of the night.
Drains: Uncovered drains are a danger to pretty much everything, especially a hedgehog scurrying to closely to the ground. Once in its pretty much impossible for them to get out, meaning if not rescued they get stuck and may even drown.
Strimmer’s: People love neat and tidy gardens, so out comes the strimmer! The issue here is that hedgehogs love to nestle into the unmanaged scrub areas that people are so keen to clear away, meaning the vegetation isn’t always the only thing getting sliced up in the process.
Compost Heaps: Another cosy place for hedgehogs to nestle in and rest. The risk here is impalement from garden forks.
How to help
Pools & Ponds: If you have either in your garden, keep them topped right up to the edge or add a slope / a platform of stones to enable them to climb out.
Hedgerows: Look online for hedge laying sessions near your area! You’ll be creating the perfect habitat to shelter our hogs (as well as several other species) and you’ll meet lots of great likeminded people whilst doing so. Organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, are always hosting different practical wildlife skills events, and are always grateful for volunteers to join their team!
Slug Pellets: Luckily the government have been paying attention to the ripple effect caused by slug pellets and a ban on using slug pellets or any other kind of metaldehyde pest control,is to be introduced by spring 2020. However, in the meantime avoid using them in your garden.
Garden Twine/ Netting: Ensure to keep your garden clear of any loose, discarded pieces of garden twine, and if you are using netting to support your plants leave a one-foot gap between the netting and ground. Also be cautious of football goal netting. If you can’t put it away after each use, try and raise the goals off the ground to avoid the hedgehogs getting tangled.
Autumn litter: Offer food and water. This can be said for hedgehogs all year round to ensure they don’t become dehydrated and go in search of potential life-threatening ponds. For food offer cat biscuits, advised by Joan herself who says that hedgehog food is expensive, and they aren’t a fan of it. A few meal wormswould also be appreciatively devoured, along with raisins, chopped nuts, or chopped meat (cooked or raw). Also, be sure to always remember to provide a shallow bowl of clean waterwith any food. To avoid problems with cats, create a feeding station out of box with a maze-like interior, including entrance and exit holes either side no bigger than 13cm x 13cm (5” x 5”). This makes it difficult for the cats to get in and allows the hedgehogs to eat in peace. Another thing to mention is, don’t stop proving the food over winter. A common misconception is that hedgehogs will hibernate straight through winter without waking up, yet this isn’t the case. They will often wake up in search of food, so ensuring you leave the food out for them over winter is a huge help for them over the cold months where food is scarce, and their body fat is drained. Side note – NEVER provide the hedgehogs with milk and bread. It was advised to do so years ago, however these foods are extremely harmful to hedgehogs.
Drains: Always keep a drain cover over your drains, and if you need to install one, don’t forget to check your drain first.
Bonfires: Try and avoid building bonfires in advance. If this isn’t an option, then make sure to check it thoroughly, and move it to a new site before lighting. Another alternative is to build your bonfire in a raised fire bin, which the hedgehog won’t have access too.
Sheds: If you have left your shed open for a few hours, give it a quick check inside to make sure you don’t have any visitors before locking up.
Cars: It’s difficult to say ‘be more careful’ when it comes to spotting wildlife at night, but if you can, at least be more aware that they are about. Also, if you see a hedgehog scurrying in the road, relocate it to a nearby safe green area.
Strimmer’s: If you can, try leaving a rough untidy area of vegetation in your garden to provide habitat for the hedgehogs. However, if you really must strim it away be sure to double check the area before doing so – the same goes for long grass. If you are going to remove their natural habitat, provide them with an alternative such as a small box filled with bedding or old materials, to offer them a dry, safe place to sleep.
Compost heaps: Look for any signs of burrowing into the heap before you get to work turning or dishing out the compost. Another thing is to make your compost heap inaccessible to hedgehogs to prevent any risk of them being impaled.
Another one to add just to finish it off is to leave a small hole in your fence. The expansion of roads had lead to increasing amounts of habitat fragmentation, often without any wildlife corridors set aside. We are continually encroaching into our wildlife’s habitat and claiming their homes for ourselves, which is why hedgehogs are now seeking refuge in so many gardens. Adding a hole to your fence allows the hedgehogs easy access in and out, which is especially useful when it comes to foraging and escaping predators.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that we can’t all open our gardens to our lovely little hogs, as most of us (myself included) have dogs that would put them at risk intentionally or not. However, I hope that for those of you that can, this will give you some ideas about how to get onboard with saving Britain’s hogs. Also, don’t forget, even if you aren’t trying to attract hogs to your garden or make it a hedgehog haven, they may still be around! So please get on board and ensure you keep your garden hedgehog safe just in case! Keep those ponds topped up and be aware of what you leave lying around.
And remember, if you find an injured hedgehog, immediately call:
The West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue (07837409533) if you live within the West Midlands
The Hedgehog Preservation Society (01584890801) if you live outside of the West Midlands; They will direct you to your local carer
If you have no luck with this, do not hesitate to take it to your local vet. However, be sure to tell them that you would like the hedgehog back if / when it is fit and able, so that you can release it back where you found it.
If you see a hedgehog out in daylight it is most likely in trouble. If it looks as though it is ‘sunbathing’ or staggering around, hypothermia is likely to be setting in so you must act at once. You can find out exactly how to identify a hedgehog in need during daylight hours, and what to do should this be the case here. Remember, never leave a hedgehog out in the open in daylight.
Oh, and another quick little mention, don’t worry about fleas! The fleas they carry are host specific, meaning the only thing they are interested in is our prickly mammals, not you or your pets.
And lastly, don’t forget to send me any pictures if you do find a hog happy in your garden!