Sadly the decline of the hedgehog population continues, and it is thought that there are now less than 500,000 left in England.
Loss of habitat from building, increased traffic on the roads, and use of pesticides means it has never been more important to look after our spikey friends.
Luckily, it is relatively easy to make small changes in our gardens to do just that.
Did you know that an adult hedgehog can travel on average up to 2km a night? Why not get together with your neighbours and install a hedgehog highway through your gardens and allotments.
All it takes is a hole approximately 13 x 13 cm at the bottom of your fencing or gates (be sure to sand down any rough edges); this allows them to travel freely without the need to use pavements and roads.
Alternatively, if you don’t have wooden fencing, don’t worry! You can still create a highway by digging a small channel under your garden barrier for them to shuffle under.
Hedgehogs can and will build their own homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them out. Ideally, housing needs to be placed somewhere with little garden traffic and under foliage if possible.
Place the entrance of your house facing or parallel to a wall or fence but give them enough room to get in, and this helps to keep out cold wind and deter predators from getting inside.
Setups don’t need to be expensive and can be as simple as having a messy area in your garden. Create piles of leaves and branches or use a few bricks to create the base and placing a flagstone on top for the roof. There are some great hedgehog houses out there to buy, and should you decide to, then wooden houses are generally the best.
Please be aware that some of the domed natural fibre houses that are held together with metal strands can cause problems, so research is key.
Those of you that are handy with a few tools might want to have a go at building your own.
Hedgehogs will generally fill their own home, but dry items like leaves and hay placed around the area so they can make a bed are ideal.
Avoid lining the house, especially coming into winter, as paper can get wet and then be damp and cold for any hibernating hedgehog.
Have a separate feeding area. You can have a house and place food elsewhere in a dish (so that it will deter predators from going near the hoggie home) or a feeding station.
Again, feeding stations can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like, and a DIY version can simply be a plastic storage box with a hole approx. 11 x 11 cm (with any rough edges covered). Whichever you choose will be well received by any visitor. Be sure to put newspapers down inside as they can be a bit messy!
That said, providing extra food can be important during the colder months and as hedgehogs are generally nocturnal, put out fresh food and water at dusk.
A small, shallow bowl of meaty dog/ cat food or kitten biscuits works well. To avoid cats eating the food, try using a feeding station or if that’s not an issue, scattering food is a more natural way to encourage foraging.
Milk and bread have long been known as a no-no. Pumpkin is great for wildlife such as squirrels but not hedgehogs, so if you are going to put your pumpkin out, please ensure it’s off the ground.
Should you choose a hedgehog specific food, check the ingredients. Ideally, it needs to be high protein and not contain peanuts, sunflower hearts, seeds, mealworm, honey, or dried fruit.
As with any wildlife, if you think an animal is in need, then please get in touch with a wildlife expert for advice. We may believe we are helping by attempting to deal with a situation ourselves.
Still, sometimes this can cause more harm than good, so unless it is a clear emergency, please ring for advice and observe the hedgehog until instructions are given.
• Ticks are common, so don’t be worried about the odd one. However, if there is a significant amount, then this can lead to problems.
• To survive hibernation, hedgehogs need to reach at least 600g. This is particularly an issue for late babies, so if you see a small hog out around this time, this could be a concern.
• Generally, hedgehogs out during the day need help; however, this is not always the case during summer when female hedgehogs may be out searching for extra food and nesting material. If they seem bright, healthy and walking with purpose, then they are likely feeding babies.
• Any hedgehog lying out in the open, even if it appears to be sleeping, needs help.
Our gardens, however, can also be dangerous places, so here are some more tips for a hedgehog safe garden:
• Make sure any pond has an escape route, this could be a shallow graded end or a plank to allow a hedgehog to walk out.
• Avoid using slug pellets and pesticides. Hedgehogs can end up eating poisoned slugs and snails, or the pellets themselves. These are not only a danger to hedgehogs but other wildlife as well.
• Always check before using strimmers or mowers on long grass, moving leaf piles and before forking your compost heap.
• Cover any drain holes.
• Always check bonfires before lighting them, or even better, avoid setting up until the day you intend to light it.
• Any netting and string (such as football nets) ideally should be removed for the night or raised at least a foot from the ground.
• Be careful when removing or moving any garden structure such as decking and sheds, especially during nesting season, as these are common areas hedgehogs build homes.