Apparently only one in five Brits has ever seen a hedgehog in their garden, and your chances are dwindling as the hedgehog population is in rapid decline. 1-7 May 2016 is National Hedgehog Awareness Week (www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk) which aims to reverse this trend and try to preserve the country’s much-loved wildlife which could face extinction in our lifetime.
These nocturnal nomadic creatures can walk up to two miles a night, looking for mates, food and suitable daytime sleeping spots in bushes and hedges – it is the loss of this natural habitat to development that is threatening their existence. Our gardens now provide a larger cumulative space for wildlife than our National Nature Reserves, so this week focuses on how we can create a hedgehog haven and practice wildlife-friendly gardening. In particular, this year’s awareness campaign targets strimmers and other tools which cause many wildlife injuries and deaths.
- Make sure you thoroughly check areas for wildlife before operating any cutting machinery
- Move piles of rubbish to a new site before burning
- Check compost heaps before sticking in your fork
- Cover drains and deep holes
In addition to the above precautions on how to avoid hurting any resident hedgehogs, there are also a number of tips on how to encourage spiny friends into your garden.
- Allow access through your garden via a 13cm x 13cm gap in the boundary
- Offer a pile of leaves in which they can forage for insects and curl up during the day
- Offer some meaty dog or cat food with a sprinkling of mealworms, alongside fresh water, just after dusk when they are searching for food (don’t put out bread and milk)
- Install a hogitat in a quiet corner of the garden
- Avoid slug pellets or other chemical insecticides, let nature take its course as hedgehogs are insectivores and will helpfully hoover up bugs and grubs in your garden
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so if you do see one out during the daytime it is likely to be ill – pick it up carefully wearing thick gardening gloves, put it into a cardboard box and take it to Tiggywinkles.