Celebrate Hedgehog Awareness Week by helping us help a Hedgehog today…
The hedgehog is currently of conservation concern within the UK as populations appear to have declined markedly since the 1950s.
Hedgehogs now appear to be declining in the UK at the same rate as tigers are globally – at around 5% a year, both in rural and urban habitats.
It is believed there are now fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK, down from an estimated 2 million in the mid-1990s and 36 million in the 1950s.
Why are they in decline?
Urban Hedgehogs seem to be in decline for a number of reasons from habitat fragmentation, too much garden tidiness; chemical pesticides such as slug pellets, road kill and housing development are all contributing factors. In rural areas the loss of hedgerows and permanent pastures, as well as widespread use of pesticides and predators are all contributing factors to declining hedgehog numbers.
Rustle the Hedgehog
Rustle the Hedgehog, star of the Trust's Knit for Nature campaign, wants to help you make a home for hedgehogs in your garden and has kindly demonstrated some hedgehog-friendly wildlife gardening ideas here.
Ten ways you can help hedgehogs
- If you see hedgehogs in your garden, putting food out will encourage them to visit again and help them through the lean times, or even all year. Cat food, mealworms and sunflower seeds are good suggestions; placing the food under an upturned washing-up bowl with an entrance cut out will help keep other animals from taking it. Hedgehogs need daily access to fresh water, but cow's milk is harmful to their stomachs.
- If you have walls or fencing, try to leave some holes at ground level so that hedgehogs can get in and out on their night-time wanderings.
- Leave areas of the garden as natural as possible - piles of leaves under hedges, under the shed - places to sleep, nest and hibernate. Resist the temptation to tidy up too much! Why not build a hibernaculum.
- Avoid using chemicals in your garden. In particular, slug poison may be taken by slugs which are then eaten by hedgehogs, as well as thrushes.
- Cover drains and gullies - hedgehogs have poor eyesight but are quite curious, meaning they fall into holes and get stuck. If you have a pond, make sure hogs can climb out, using a ramp or stones, if they fall in.
- Avoid plastic netting or at least check it daily in case animals and birds have become entangled. Bits of plastic string and the discarded netting from fat balls are also hazards.
- Litter can be a serious problem for hedgehogs (as well as other animals). As their spines point backwards, they find it very hard to extricate themselves once entangled. Help them by picking up litter when you are out and about.
- When cutting areas of long grass try to avoid using strimmers, which can be lethal not only for hedgehogs but also for any reptiles or amphibians sheltering there. Ensure you check for the presence of any wildlife before you cut manually.
- If you plan to have a bonfire, move the material gently around and check that no hedgehogs are sleeping within the pile.
- If you find a sick or injured hedgehog, or a tiny hedgehog (less than 450g) in late autumn, contact your local wildlife centre, such as the RSPCA or Secret World.