Between 2000 and 2010, a quarter of Britain’s hedgehog population was lost due to lack of habitats and food, and that number is still going down. While the British people voted them their favourite mammal in 2013, we are not doing enough to protect the species. This is a huge worry for gardeners and garden enthusiasts everywhere, but all hope is not lost, as more can be done to save the nation’s favourite spiky critter.
Here are ten ways to help hedgehogs in your own garden.
1. Plant a hedge
Hedgehogs can get trapped in gardens if they are walled or fenced off, leaving them struggling for food, or putting them in danger of pets. A hedge will provide hedgehogs with means of coming and going as they please, as well as giving them shelter and a potential food source.
2. Cut holes in your fence
Planting a hedge isn’t an option for all gardens, but you could always consider cutting holes in your fence or keeping your fence a little off the ground to allow hedgehogs safe passage in and out of your garden.
3. Make ponds safe
If you have a pond in your garden, there’s a risk that hedgehogs might fall in. While they can swim, they can’t keep it up for very long, so if your pond is large and deep, there is a danger there. Make sure that your pond slopes down instead of dropping off sharply, as this will make it easier for hedgehogs to climb out should an accident ever happen. Alternatively, add rope netting or a log to act as a ladder.
4. Check before strimming
Long grass can easily huge a little hedgehog. One of the most common injuries a hedgehog will experience is being hit while strumming or mowing a lawn. Check before you start, and if you find any hiding, be sure to carefully move them to a safe spot so they don’t get hurt.
5. Avoid using slug pellets
Conventional slug pellets contain ingredients such as acetaldehyde, which is deathly poisonous to hedgehogs. Try using more wildlife-friendly pellets made of ferric phosphate. It is not as toxic to hedgehogs but should keep slugs away – and if it doesn’t, the hedgehogs you’ve saved will do the job!
6. Make a hedgehog box
Hedgehogs require space that is safe and dry in order to hibernate or raise young hogs. You can build a wooden box to provide them with this. If you do, cover with plastic sheeting to keep the rain off of it and make sure there’s a warm nest of leaves inside. You should also build an entrance tunnel around 12cm in diameter and at least 40cm long to stop predators being able to access the box too.
7. Leave our extra food
Natural food like insects is always the best diet for hedgehogs, but a meat-based dog or cat food will also do the trick is nothing else can be found. Hedgehogs do particularly well with poultry-flavour. Don’t try and leave them any bread or milk as these foods will dehydrate and kill hedgehogs.
8. Grow native plants
Growing plants native to Britain will attract insects native to Britain, the favourite food of Britain’s favourite mammal. Consider adding honeysuckle, dog rose, hawthorn, hazel and blackthorn plants to your garden to bring in a steady food supply for any visiting hedgehogs.
9. Retain twigs and leaves
Leaves and sticks in a garden make a great hedgehog nest for shelter and hibernation. Small insects will also likely be found in this pile, making a great meal. If you find a pile of leaves in your garden hidden away in the corner, consider keeping it, especially if you can’t provide a hedgehog box or other means of shelter or food.
10. Check bonfires
Hedgehogs often mistake bonfires for these leaf piles that contain warm shelter and tasty food. If you build a bonfire long before you light it, be sure to double-check that no hedgehog has climbed inside whilst you weren’t looking to avoid the possibility of a hog making your bonfire their hibernation spot.