Hedgehog numbers around our towns have dropped by a third in the past 10 years, so if we want these popular, spiky little creatures to continue helping us keep slug and snail numbers down in our gardens then they need a little help. They are not very demanding – most of what they need involves us doing less.
- as their name implies, hedgehogs need shrubs and plant cover as places to forage and for protection. A dry corner where dead leaves have accumulated will harbour just the kind of insects and worms that they love and provide a great nesting place
- poisoning slugs and snails unfortunately also poisons hedgehogs. Avoid using slug pellets and, after a while, hedgehogs and birds will do the job for you. Also bad for hedgehogs is the traditional bread and milk. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so milk makes them ill.
- whilst the hedgehogs’ habit of rolling into a ball at the first sign of danger is very endearing, it gives them no protection against cars and garden machinery. If you’re driving at night, keep your speed down and watch out for their beady eyes in the headlights. If you’re using a strimmer or hedge trimmer then take extra care that the area is hedgehog free. Check bonfires before you set light to them too. Hedgehogs are beautifully camouflaged so do check carefully
- hedgehogs need big areas to feed, wandering up to a mile each evening, so make sure that there’s a of gap in each boundary to allow them to roam . One gap about the size of a CD will suffice – the hedgehogs will find it .
- a super easy hedgehog house is an old wooden pallet with a covering to keep the rain out – an old compost sack would be fine – and a little straw or some dead leaves. Pop it in a corner, under shrubs if possible.If you find a hedgehog that is injured or ill, then most vets will treat wild animals for free, or in return for a donation. You could also contact the Hedgehog Lady in London Colney. She does amazing work caring for and then re-releasing sick and injured hedgehogs, but bear in mind that this is a tiny charity. If you can make a donation then the money will enable the Hedgehog Lady to feed and care for more hedgehogs.There’s lots more about helping hedgehogs on the Hedgehog Street Website where you can also help with the first ever Hedgehog House Survey. As Fay Vass told Environment Matters listeners, all the information gathered will be analysed at the University of Reading and the findings used to better inform how we help hedgehogs.Many thanks to Jill Stevens for talking on Environment Matters about the hedgehogs that she has helped and for the gorgeous photos and videos.