How to Help Hedgehogs

 

Photo of Hedgehog by David Lidstone
Photo by David Lidstone

 

FactsPie chart of Hedgehog Diet

  • Latin: Erinaceus europaeus
  • Average lifespan 2 - 5 years
  • Length: 15 - 30cm
  • Weight: up to 2kg
  • Approximately 6000 spines
  • Hibernate between October - February
  • Solitary and nocturnal animals, therefore they have bad eyesight but good hearing and sense of smell
  • Give birth to an average of 4 - 5 hoglets per litter
  • Highly mobile and can travel distances of around 2 - 3km
  • Diet: Omnivores with a varied diet
  • Distribution: Widespread, found throughout the country in a variety of habitats, absent from some Scottish islands and been introduced to others islands including the Isles of Scilly.
  • Since 2000 number have fallen by over 50% in rural areas and by a 1/3 in urban areas
  • Conservation status: Hedgehogs are a UK 'Priority Species' under Section 41 of the NERC Act (2006). They also have limited protection under Schedule of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and protected by the Wild Mammals Act 1996

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Hedgehog Rescue Centre: Prickles and Paws 07926 576 164

I have found a hedgehog in my garden, what should I do?

If a hedgehog is using your garden at night to forage, nest during the day or hibernate, it is a great privilege. Perhaps, you would like to take steps to make your garden more hedgehog friendly, to encourage more to use it as a safe hedgehog habitat.

I have found a hedgehog out during the day, is it alright?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal so should not be out during the day, they normally come out in the evening foraging for food until the morning. If you see a hedgehog during the day, it is an indication that it is in ill health. The only exception would be if a female, with hoglets is moving nest material or foraging, she would not be still but busy moving about throughout May to August. If you are uncertain or believe the hedgehog needs rescuing, call Prickles and Paws.

I have found a injured hedgehog!

Firstly, call Prickles and Paws, they will be able to provide tailored advice for the particular situation. If the hedgehog needs rescuing, wearing thick gardening gloves, pick it up by holding it in both hands around the middle, scooping it up. Place the hedgehog in a cardboard box lined with newspaper and give it a small towel to hide underneath. 
If your hedgehog is very ill or cold, you can also provide a hot water bottle or a drinks bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a tea towel, to snuggle up against. If you care for the hedgehog for any time before it can be taken to a rescue centre, then offer it some dog or cat food (not fish flavoured) into a shallow bowl, plus a non-tip dish of fresh water.

I have found a unattended litter or individual hoglet.

If a nest has been disturbed, hoglets can be found wandering making high pitched squeaking. Do not handle the hoglets, do not try to feed them or give them any liquids. This is important as the mother may be nearby and can easily orphan the young.
Instead watch carefully from afar to see if the mother returns to take care of the hoglets. If not, please call Prickles and Paws, the hoglets will require specialist rescue and care. 

I have found a underweight hedgehog, will it be alright?

If a hedgehog is found in autumn or early winter (October on wards) and is below 600g, the individual will not have enough food reserve to hibernate over winter. Please do not try to overwinter a hedgehog yourself as the stress can easily cause their health to deteriorate, they will require specialist care to overwinter. Please call Prickles and Paws for advice. To help hedgehogs with weight gain, you can supplement their diet by leaving out in your garden a bowl of cat or dog food (not fish flavoured).

Photo of Hedgehog by JB and S Bottomley
Photo by JB and S Bottomley

How can I Help Hedgehogs in my Garden?

A few very simple easy changes can help provide a safe and friendly environment for hedgehogs and other wildlife in your garden. By following these methods you can help hedgehog conservation, encouraging your neighbours to do the same goes one step further, and your neighbourhood can become a hedgehog safe haven.

Access

Hedgehogs can travel up to 2 miles in one evening; enclosed gardens can inhabit their movement. They are good climbers and can easily scramble over banks and hedgerows but a fence is too slippery. The Hedgehog Street initiative encourages creating a network of hedgehog highways. This involves, with your neighbour's permission, creating a 13cm (5 inches) square hole in your fence, providing an entrance/exit from your garden.

Wild Areas

Tidy gardens are not suitable for hedgehogs or wildlife. Leave an area of your garden wild with piles of leaves, long grass and natural debris as a refuge and nesting material. This is especially important in Cornwall, due to our warmer weather their state of torpor may be short, and therefore a cool safe area of long grass can be ideal for hibernation. Please be careful when gardening, strimmers and mowers can cause serious harm and injuries to hedgehogs and their hoglets. Please check carefully for hedgehogs before cutting.

Food 

Feeding hedgehogs can provide a supplement to their natural diet, helping them obtain ideal weight before hibernation. You can provide a bowl of dry or wet dog or cat food (not fish flavoured). Water can also be difficult to find at certain times of year, so you can also provide a source of water to drink from. A feeding station can be created to deter cats or other large animals from the food, a box with a 13cm square hole as a doorway will protect the hedgehogs while they eat.

Hedgehog home

All hedgehogs need for the winter is an area safely undisturbed away from the cold wet weather. A simple log pile or leaves would be suitable for a hedgehog home. You can create a sturdier contraption; however there is no guarantee that the hedgehog will choose your beautifully constructed hedgehog home to a quiet safe spot under a pile of leaves. If you would like to provide the option, here are some simple instructions to create your own hedgehog home. Make a box from untreated wood, and a tunnel around 60cm long for a entrance. It should be 13cm square to keep the hedgehog safe from dogs, cats and foxes. Through the back wall, insert a small ventilation pipe to provide fresh air, you can also use chicken wire or a similar material to cover the inside of the pipe so that leaves and twigs do not get in. Bury your box with soil and leaves in a quiet area of your garden which will be undisturbed throughout the winter, make sure you leave the entrance of the tunnel and ventilation pipe exposed. This will keep the house nice and warm and still allow the hedgehog free movement.

Safety

Common garden features and management can cause harm to hedgehogs, however simple changes can easily protect them. Pools and ponds can be a wonderful habitat and source of water in the garden. Hedgehogs are good swimmers, although sometimes they are unable to climb out over edge. To reduce this risk, a ramp made of logs or stones partially submerged can help a hedgehog climb out back to safety. Hedgehogs can become trapped in drains, by covering the holes and checking regularly you can save a hedgehog from harm. Simple garden netting or football nets can cause entanglement; by lifting the netting off the ground overnight you can reduce the risk. Encouraging species of 'slug hoovers' like hedgehogs can be a brilliant pest control method. Slug pellets and pesticides can kill hedgehogs, try using wildlife friendly alternatives.

Hedgehog Photo by Gillian Day
Photo by Gillian Day

Wider Issues

 

Habitat fragmentation

The increasing use of impenetrable fencing around gardens, with reduces the movement of hedgehogs between garden, has led to fragmentation of urban hedgehog populations. 

In more rural numbers their habitat is also being fragmented, through the demand for larger field sizes leading to the loss of hedgerows. This means a reduced habitat to forage for their wide variety of diet and to meet potential mates. 

Climate Change

As a hibernating mammal, the uncertainty caused by climate change could lead to further impacts on the hedgehog population. Throughout the winter, they are known to periodically wake from hibernation, during times of warmer weather to forage. 
The duration of warmer winter periods increasing, the time hedgehogs are awake for increases, leading to more energy lost and a low availability of food source to sustain activity throughout the colder months.

Tidying up of Green Spaces

Our obsession with keeping our green spaces tidy is taking it’s toll. Our parks and garden are leafless and perfectly maincured lawns provide no refuge for wildlife seeking safety. Within rural areas and our own garden, the increase of pesticides and slug pellets has reduced the diversity and numbers of food resources for hedgehogs. It becomes hard for them to gain the nutrients and weight required to successfully reproduce and hibernate throughout the winter. 

Increased Road Traffic

The roads that provide a web of networks throughout our country can provide a barrier to hedgehogs movement, they cause large scale mortality and the potential of having a genetic impact on divided populations.There is an estimated 167,000 - 335,000 individual hedgehog mortalities ever year in the UK, causing a severe impact on the population.

 

How can you help Hedgehog conservation?

Record your sightings at ORKS and www.hedgehogstreet.org

Hedgehog health and welfare contact Prickle and Paws Hedgehog Rescue - 01637 831 299

If you have any further questions about hedgehogs contact the Wildlife Information Service

wis@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk - 01872 302 250

 

 

 

 

 

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Hedgehog by David Lidstone
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