Male hedgehogs are emerging from hibernation now, soon to be followed by the females and then their rather noisy breeding season will kick off. Here are some suggestions as to how we can all help them this year.
A large percentage of hedgehogs are taken to rescues suffering from dehydration. They emerge from hibernation also in urgent need of fresh water. A sturdy but low bowl by a back door, refilled regularly is perfect. They drink a lot of water and even more during heatwaves so a bowl of clean water 365 days a year will be a lifesaver. Please don’t ever leave out milk, they are lactose intolerant and it gives them diarrhoea.
Leave an area of garden unmown. Perhaps even most of it with just mown pathways through it which is softer and more calming to our senses. Not only might the longer grass be used by hedgehogs to sleep in during the day but also any reduction in the parallel lined, clinical, lifeless green lawns around us, the better for biodiversity, which not only benefits us but means more natural food for hedgehogs as well. Please be careful using a strimmer and check the area first. A lot of hedgehogs are taken to rescues with life threatening strimmer injuries.
A beetle breeding structure
Pile up any unwanted logs, fallen branches, broken twigs, plant trimmings and leaves into a corner, instead of the composting bin, where they will create a burgeoning beetle habitat. Any passing hedgehog won’t be able to resist a rummage. Hedgehogs are insectivores and their favourite natural foods are beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, millipedes, spiders and other such insects and their larvae.
If you have a pond, please make sure it has either a beach effect at one end or a well secured exit plank with traction – chicken wire works well. Hedgehogs can swim but they will tire and drown quickly if they can’t get out.
Hedgehogs frequently get trapped in ground level netting. If possible, please tie it up when not in use.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal. Any hedgehog found out during the day ‘sunbathing’ is trying to warm up, is close to death and in desperate need of being taken to a rescue centre as quickly as possible. Generally, all hedgehogs out the day are in need of help with the exception of one moving purposely with intent or just before dusk because the reduced hours of darkness mid-summer meant it hadn’t been able to find enough food the previous night. A list of rescue centres can be found at helpwildlife.co.uk. Tiggywinkes Wildlife Hospital is open 24 hours, 365 days a year for advice and to receive casualties: 01844 292292
Hedgehogs can whizz around surprisingly fast on legs of 10cms long, up to two kilometres a night in search of water, food or a mate. In towns and cities, a CD sized hole in garden fencing enables them to get about easier and opens up new foraging areas although in rural situations, this is less of an option because wild rabbits can and will get into valuable vegetable patches and wreak utter havoc.
If you are interested in helping our dwindling hedgehog population during our biodiversity crisis when their natural food is scarcer than ever, kitten biscuits are perfect. Make sure meat of some sort is the first listed ingredient. Dry food attracts less flies but any meaty cat or dog food is good. Kitten biscuits have a small kibble and hedgehogs have small mouths and their weaned hoglets have even smaller mouths. If you place a little bowl of kitten biscuits on newspaper the slugs are less likely to crawl over to it. Bring in or cover any uneaten biscuits in the morning. Hedgehogs have an acute sense of smell and they will find your offerings.
Please don’t ever feed hedgehogs mealworms, peanuts or sunflower seeds. They absolutely LOVE them and will eat them to the exclusion of anything else but the calciumphosphorous imbalance causes metabolic bone disease MBD which in a comparatively short time weakens their bones and ultimately results in death because they are no longer able to walk