I have been doing some volunteering at my local wildlife hospital. The main animal I have been working with is hedgehogs which are sick or have been injured.
The hedgehog population is in decline. Reasons for this are still not known for certain but there are some ideas. For example: loss of hedgerows, predation by badgers, fragmentation of habitat in urban areas and so on.
Hedgehogs are a gardener’s friend as they eat snails, slugs and other insects. But they are becoming scarce. There are many reasons this is: they can’t move from one garden to another because of fencing, there isn’t enough food or water and attacks from dogs.
However, to help the hedgehog population, there are some things to make our gardens more hedgehog friendly!
Hedgehog houses: Make or buy a hedgehog house to put in your gardens! Hedgehogs will often nest in these houses from November to April when sleeping through the cold months! Leave a bit of your garden to grow wild and put out a bit of dry leaves for bedding! These are an attractive nest as well as homes for the invertebrates that hedgehogs like to eat! Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a board against a wall!
There are also lots of styles of houses you can buy, ranging in prices:
https://www.birdfood.co.uk/hedgehog-basket-square – £17.99
https://www.gardenwildlifedirect.co.uk/igloo-hedgehog-house.html – £19.99
Link your garden with your neighbours: Make or buy hedgehog walls and tunnels! Hedgehogs walk between 1 – 2km each night during their active season. So it is very important that they can walk through lots of gardens. Make 13 x 13cm (5 x 5″) holes in walls and fences to let hedgehogs through – but too small for most pets!
https://shop.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/product/hedgehog-highway-sign/ – £3
Make your pond safe: Hedgehogs are great swimmers but if they can’t climb out of ponds and lakes they will drown. Use a piece of wood or some stones to make a ramp out of your pond at home.
Put out food and water: Buy hedgehog, dog or cat food and put them in little pots around your garden! For water put little stones in a pot and fill with water. The stones are to help the hedgehogs out if they fall in! If you have hungry pets, make a little feeding centre with a hole big enough for hedgehogs but smaller than your pets!
https://fetch.co.uk/brambles-crunchy-hedgehog-food-900g-414783011 – £4.79
https://www.arkwildlife.co.uk/product/hedgehog-food-uk/ – £17.30 for 5kg
https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/291159154 – £3
Check before mowing and strimming: Hedgehogs love to roam in long grass. So before mowing or strimming check there are none that may be caught. As well as under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking over. At the wildlife hospital there are heaps of hedgehogs with strimming injuries so it is always best to check!
Stay away from slug pellets and garden chemicals: Slug pellets and garden chemicals reduce hedgehogs natural prey worms and slugs. If you can try to stay away from them or have a part of the garden where you let the plants go mad and don’t use any chemicals. They also poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Instead try using one of many “natural” alternatives, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect. If you have to use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are wonderful animals to see in the garden, so do your part to help increase their population!