Once a really common sight in UK countryside, the lovable critters which have inspired favourite characters such as Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggywinkle, are in serious decline with the hedgehog population thought to have fallen from 30 million to less than 1 million since the 1950s. The good news is, there are ways we can slightly modify our gardens to give them a helping hand and protect the species for future generations to enjoy.
Create a hedgehog hole
One of the biggest contributors to the decline of hedgehogs is roads. By making sure there’s a small gap of 13cm x 13cm in your wall or fence, hedgehogs can travel from garden to garden, rather than having to leave your garden and cross or walk along roads, where they can easily be missed and harmed by vehicles.
Check your pellets!
Pesticides and slug pellets might keep the slugs away from your fuchsias, but they also harm hedgehogs indirectly by becoming an unwanted part of their food chain. Check whether what you’re using in your garden is hog friendly and if not have a look at some alternatives.
A hedgehog watering hole
Provide a shallow dish of water, especially in the summer when water sources can become a lot harder to find for them!
But not too much water.
Hedgehogs can swim really well, but they’ve only got little legs, so can easily get trapped in ponds or pools with steep sides. Try and add a slope somehow, or strategically place some big rocks that they can use as stepping stones.
It’s a tale as old as time that hedgehogs like bread and milk. They’re scavengers, so they’ll eat nearly anything, but it’s not their favourite and it can do them harm. If you’d like to provide your little visitors with sustenance, try putting out meaty (but not fish) tinned cat or dog food, or chicken flavoured kitten biscuits.
If you have room, providing a home for your hedgehogs means they’ll have a safe place to hibernate over the cold winter months, and it may be used to nest in the warmer months & you could see some hoglets in your garden!
If you're a keen gardener
Check your garden thoroughly for hedgehogs before strimming or mowing, to avoid any horrible accidents. If there’s a patch of garden which you can leave to grow a little wild in order to provide a good place for hedgehogs to play, hide, and find food such as worms and beetles then that’s all the better! Bonfires also provide ideal-looking shelter for hogs, so make sure before lighting a bonfire that you’ve had a good check for any spiky friends.
If you've found a hedgehog, does it need help?
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if you see one in the day time or in the winter when they should be hibernating, it’s likely that there’s something wrong.