Hedgehogs. Those cute little spiky animals we all love, which we are inadvertently driving to extinction.
It’s “Hedgehog Awareness Week” in the UK from 5th to 11th May 2019.
But hedgehog populations are suffering and we may lose these little critters if we don’t all start doing something about it now.
Basically hedgehogs are dying because humans are taking away their living space and their food, and since they’re nocturnal creatures, we’re killing them on the roads too.
So what can we do to help hedgehogs survive?
We need to make our gardens and parks and common spaces hedgehog-friendly.
Keep your garden and other natural areas litter-free. Hedgehogs and other wildlife can easily get caught in plastic, netting or packaging left lying around.
More than anything, we must actively keep plants, hedgerows, bushes and fallen leaves intact. We need to start encouraging nature and plant life, not cutting it back or clearing it away.
Hedgehogs eat bugs so we need to ensure the hedgehogs, and the bugs, have somewhere safe to live. That means NO weedkillers, pesticides or herbicides!
Remember that so-called ‘weeds’ are plants too, and these are usually important food sources for insects, bees and small mammals.
No matter how safe the manufacturers claim their biological poisons are, chemicals like Roundup, other glyphosate-based herbicides and other toxic garden sprays and pest pellets are designed to KILL life.
Despite the fact that they are designed to kill only some life, the target plants and small animals are always part of an ecosystem with other life, which means if we use chemicals at the bottom of the food chain, we are poisoning and negatively affecting ALL life up the food chain too.
For example, if we spray weedkiller, and a hedgehog eats insects which were on or around that plant, the hedgehog will be poisoned too.
Hedgehogs often struggle to move around to find food sources.
Where possible we should be adding holes for them in the bottom of garden fences, using lower borders around plant beds (maximum 15cm high), or using plants as borders instead of fences.
It’s a good idea to talk to your neighbours and each make a hedgehog-sized hole in your fences, so hedgehogs can move unhindered through all your gardens.
You can put out water in a shallow bowl, and some specialist hedgehog food for them too. But if your garden is a safe haven, full of life, and they can move around safely, hedgehogs will probably be able to find enough food and moisture without you feeding them. The only time it may become an emergency is in hot summer spells, when they will benefit from you putting water out.
Hedgehogs sleep and hibernate under hedges, bushes and in piles of leaves and vegetation.
Never clear leaves away, and don’t prepare or light a bonfire, without first gently checking for hedgehogs which may be resting or sleeping underneath. Be careful when gardening, as hedgehogs can be injured or killed by hedge-trimmers, lawnmowers, strimmers and even handheld garden tools.
You can place a hedgehog box or hedgehog house under plants or in areas with lots of leaves and vegetation for hedgehogs to live in. Put some leaves, moss and twigs in it to encourage them in. They may well hibernate in it all winter, and even make a nest for their babies there!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they sleep in the day and roam around feeding at night.
Try to not disturb hedgehogs who you know may be sleeping nearby in the day. Also do be aware that hedgehogs may be hibernating for a few months in the winter, so again, do not disturb places where they might be.
Unfortunately it’s not always possible to avoid them on the roads. But where you can, do drive slowly and look out for little creatures crossing the road at night.
Find out more.
Have you ever seen a hedgehog? What are you doing to save them? What do you feed it? I’d love to hear from you. Write your reply below this post.
Information sources and further reading:
Hedgehog photos and images from pixabay.com and canva.com