This is the season where hedgehogs are fattening up before the long winter hibernation. If you look hard enough, you’ll see them out and about snuffling around gardens for their next meal. But with our green spaces disappearing, hedgehogs are having a hard time of it; their numbers across England in serious decline. With suitable habitats few and far between, your garden could be the perfect place to help out a hedgehog in need.
Despite their protective prickly exteriors, the little critters face a whole heap of dangers in urban environments. Luckily, many of these are entirely preventable. With little more than a few simple courtesies, we can help give them the best chance to survive and thrive…
Slug pellets are a big no-no, as they contain chemicals lethal to hedgehogs. Although wildlife-friendly pellets are available, when you’ve got an army of hedgehogs at your disposal over the autumn, there’s really no need. Hedgehogs love tucking into small insects, so will gladly munch their way through your unwanted slug population, meaning everyone’s happy. Except the slugs that is…
Helping it All Go Swimmingly
When it comes to swimming, hedgehogs have plenty of enthusiasm but very little stamina. If you have a pond with steep sides in your garden, they might fancy a dip, but will struggle to find a way out. Do them a favour, and set up a ladder in the form of a log or some heavy netting draped at one end so they can scramble to safety once they’ve done their lengths.
Raise the Alarm
When you’re piling up your garden waste in preparation for a bonfire, a hedgehog might see it as a great winter hideout. So before you get the fire burning, dismantle it and check for any spiky balls curled up among the trimmings. Or ideally, build it up just before you plan on lighting it, so our sneaky friends don’t have a chance to slink on in.
Trim Hedges not Hedgehogs
If you’re planning on putting your green thumbs to work this autumn, make sure you keep an eye out for anything chillaxing in your hedges. Hedgehogs and strimmers rarely mix, so before taming your shrubbery, check if any critters have wandered into the line of fire and carefully move them to safety. The little guys would definitely give you a thumbs up for it, if they had any…
Come early November they do what we all wish we could do and find a warm nest to curl up in for the cold winter months. Once they sniff out a good food supply, they’ll tend to stick around, so this is a great opportunity to turn your outdoor space into a hedgehog haven…
Come on In!
Your garden could be an oasis for homeless hedgehogs marauding the mean streets of North Leeds, so why not invite them over to your place for the winter? Cut a small hole in the bottom of your garden fence no bigger than a CD (remember those?) for handy access. If you can get your neighbours in on the action, you could create a hedgehog superhighway allowing them to commute from far and wide. It would be like a mini Harrogate Road in your back garden, but with the traffic hopefully a bit quieter!
There’s just as much of a housing shortage in the hedgehog world, so get housebuilding and give them a place to hole-up that is safe and dry. A shoebox makes an ideal home with plenty of space to hibernate and raise their young. First, place a heavy stone on top and cover in plastic sheeting to keep out the wet weather. To stave off squatters and potential predators, create an access tunnel – half a metre of old drainpipe should do the trick. Finally throw over a layer of leaves to conceal the hideaway, and our prickly friends will come flocking, no estate agents necessary.
Room for Seconds
While hedgehogs will normally get all the grub they need from the garden, with larger appetites pre-hibernation, they certainly won’t turn their noses up at the odd care package. They like to watch their carbs, so avoid bread as this expands in their stomach and can severely dehydrate them. Stick to protein-centric snacks as a rule, ideally whipping up a feast of meat-based cat or dog food. Putting chicken and turkey flavour on the menu will be met with rave reviews. But make sure you leave it tucked well away from the pilfering paws of local dine-and-dash felines.