Last week we were joined by Henry and Emily from Peoples Trust for Endangered Species who lead a fascinating talk on our favourite prickly animal, the hedgehog. As you may be aware, hedgehog numbers have decreased dramatically over the last ten years – in fact, it looks like we may have lost around a quarter of the UK population. The reasons behind this loss is not clear, but the good news is that everyone can do their bit to help. Here are Henry and Emily’s top ten tips for helping hogs in Redbridge.
1. Create a wild corner
Often gardens can be too tidy and leave little room for wildlife. Turning an area of your garden into a wilderness area, by leaving a patch of brambles or creating a log pile, leaf pile or compost heap, will benefit your local hedgehogs. All of these features will allow any resident hogs to create a prefect nesting site to hibernate or breed in as well as provide an ideal place to forage hidden from predators.
2. Make your pond safe
Hedgehogs are good swimmers but they often drown through sheer exhaustion as they are unable to get out of ponds or swimming pools. If you have a garden pond, make sure at least one side slopes gently to allow any hedgehog to get out, or you can form a ramp out of chicken wire or something similar to create an escape route.
3. Link your garden
Hedgehogs travel around one mile every night through our parks and gardens in their quest to find enough food and a mate. If you have an enclosed garden you might be getting in the way of their plans. We can make their life a little easier by removing the barriers within our control – for example, by making holes in or under our garden fences and walls for them to pass through. The gap need only be 13x13cm or 5inches square and so should not affect your pets’ safety.
4. Deal with netting (and litter)
Due to their spines and their tendency to curl up, hedgehogs are very prone to getting tangled up in netting. This can lead to the netting acting like a snare causing damage, sometimes fatal, to the hedgehog. Make sure any unused netting (including sports netting) is stored off the ground and that pea netting is high enough from the ground to allow hedgehogs to pass under safely.
5. Put out some food and water
The hedgehog’s natural diet mainly consists of slugs, ground beetles, caterpillars and worms. During cold or dry periods, these creepy-crawlies become much scarcer in gardens, so hedgehogs will benefit hugely from a shallow dish of water and supplementary feeding.
Hedgehogs will relish any combination of the following:
– Meat-based dog or cat food
– Unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts
– Sunflower hearts
– Dried meal worms
– Dried fruit
Place in a shallow dish and put in a sheltered area of your garden around sunset. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so please do not give them milk
6. Stop using chemicals
Slug pellets are the most well-known chemical hazard to hedgehogs. However, other pesticides are also thought to affect hedgehogs; herbicides can lead to a decrease in the number of earthworms in lawns resulting in less food for hedgehogs and other insecticides can reduce the amount of other invertebrates available for the hedgehogs to eat. Wood preservers can also be harmful to hedgehogs as they will often lick freshly treated fences. Try to use a water-based environmentally friendly treatment instead.
7. Build a log pile
These provide a safe, secure site for hedgehogs to use for breeding or hibernating. They will also attract caterpillars and other insects that hedgehogs can eat.
Collect any old dead wood from your garden or ask the local park or wildlife reserve for permission to take some from their supply and pile it up in a quiet undisturbed corner of your garden. As the wood rots down, replenish the logs from time to time. Remember to check the pile for hedgehogs if you are going to move it elsewhere.
8. Check before strimming
Hedgehogs like to hide away in long grass and bramble, so do a quick check before strimming areas where hedgehogs might be present.
9. Be careful with bonfires
Any pile of wood or brush is going to be an attractive prospect for a hedgehog looking for somewhere dry and cosy to make a nest for sleeping or for hibernation. Check any piles of wood or garden refuse for a nesting hedgehog before burning.
10. Become a Hedgehog Champion!
To become a Hedgehog Champion for your area please visit: http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/
Credit to Peoples Trust for Endangered Species for tips and photographs.
Post Author: Tess Pettinger