Helping Hedgehogs

The UK hedgehog population is in difficulty. They are becoming an endangered species that are facing many problems. The destruction of their habitat, as well as becoming roadkill, means their numbers are dwindling. Hedgerows and grasslands are in decline and the use of pesticides means that the prey hedgehogs live off are disappearing too. So if you are lucky enough to have one in your garden, please take care of them.

Here are some tips for feeding and housing your little garden visitors.

Using slug pellets is a big health problem not just for hedgehogs but other wildlife too, like birds and your pets. Usually they are made up of cereal and metaldehyde, which is extremely toxic. A hedgehog is an ally for gardeners. Even though hedgehogs may not eat the pellets they will eat slugs and snails. I have tried the beer trick to stop slugs from ruining my garden and it has worked every time. Also hedgehogs aren’t interested in eating your flowers and plants so show them a bit of consideration and try the eco way first. It’s good for all of the cute mammals that may pass through your garden.

The majority of a hedgehogs diet consists of insects, worms and other small mammals. Slugs and snails only feature in about 5% of their food. Never feed hedgehogs milk and bread. Their stomachs can’t digest bread and cows milk gives them diarrhoea which can dehydrate them and eventually cause death. They are actually very fussy eaters and will probably turn their noses up at cheap cat or dog food. I have found that plain flavours like chicken are their favourite and they don’t like fish flavours at all. Left over mince and chicken is good for them, but be sure to cut everything up as small as possible. Of course the neighbourhood cats may help themselves, so you can always try unsugared museli, Weetabix or raisins. Also leave fresh water out for them with their food. As winter weather freezes cat food quickly you can also feed them cat and dog biscuits and crushed unsalted peanuts. Hedgehogs should be fed all year round and even though you may think they’ll be hibernating, they may wake up and need a quick feed.

Your garden is big enough for the both of you. All a hedgehog would require from you would be a little thought. If you have a pond make sure you cover it or at least ensure the sides aren’t too slippery. Hedgehogs can swim but if they can’t get out they will drown. A small piece of wood fixed to the side should help them to grip and climb back out. Any drain holes should be covered over. If possible leave a few small gaps under your fences so that they can easily move from garden to garden.

Bonfires are very attractive to hedgehogs for nesting, please check them before lighting. That would be an extremely cruel way for any animal to die. If you can, let a small part of your garden grow. They will love to nest and forage in the long grass and leaves. You can of course buy hedgehog homes which will most definitely attract some spiky visitors.

As humans we have a responsibility to help the food chain and wildlife around us survive. We seem to be poisoning and destroying so much natural habitat that now species that were common in my childhood England are disappearing. We need the eco system to keep its balance, so do whatever you can for the wildlife around you.

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