Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are one of Britain’s most familiar wild animals and are easily recognisable even by the youngest children. They generally live in parks and gardens where bushes and hedges provide perfect day-time hiding/sleeping places and the insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make great feeding grounds at dusk. Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates such as beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, slugs and snails.
Sadly, over the last 11 years hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30% and there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK; which is thought to be due to habitat loss, poor management of hedgerows and habitat fragmentation, due to new roads and buildings.
Hedgehog Awareness Week
Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and is taking place from 6th – 12th May 2018. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them. The BHPS was founded in 1982 and is a registered charity that offers help and advice to those with sick, injured or orphaned hedgehogs and maintains a list of hedgehog rehabilitators in the UK. They are asking people to do at least one thing on the list below, to help hedgehogs during hedgehog week and beyond.
- Check your garden for hedgehogs before you start mowing the lawn or using the strimmer
- Give hedgehogs access to your garden – by making a small hole in the fences at either side (about as big as a cd)
- Make a safe place for hedgehogs to live in your garden – leave a small patch a bit wilder than the rest, make some log piles to encourage insects and some leaf piles to supply bedding/nesting materials for the hedgehogs. You could also make or buy a Hedgehog House.
- Move piles of rubbish and wood to a new site before burning it.
- Check compost heaps before digging.
- Reduce (or stopping) the amount of pesticides you use.
- Cover drains or deep holes.
- Ensure there is an easy route out of your pond – hedgehogs are good swimmers but they can drown if they cannot get out of ponds.
BHPS is hoping to raise £2000 to help hedgehogs in need during their event. You can find more information on Hedgehogs and how to donate by visiting their website
European/British Hedgehog Facts
- Each hedgehog has approximately 5000 – 7000 spines on its back
- Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid-March and may choose the stack of leaves or branches in your garden. They also like to nest under things (e.g. sheds, hedges and brushwood) and need plenty of dry leaves to build their nest.
- Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and drinking milk can make them very poorly.
- If you want to feed hedgehogs in your garden it is best to use special hedgehog food, which can be found in larger pet stores. You should also offer a low sided bowl of fresh water. Put the food out at sunset, to avoid attracting flies.
- Hedgehogs need to be at least 600g to hibernate or they wont survive.
- When hedgehogs encounter a new or pleasant smell, they go through the process of ‘self-anointing’. During this process they lick or chew the source of the smell and create a foamy saliva, which they then rub on various parts of their body. No one really knows why they do this but it may to form a scent ‘camouflage’ to help them blend in with the environment, attract a mate or reduce parasites.
- Hedgehog fleas are host-specific, so they cannot infest/live on your dog or cat.
- They should not be kept as pets and keeping them confined to one garden is cruel. A hedgehog will travel about 2 or 3 kilometres every night, looking for food or exploring.
Sick & Injured Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs usually only come out at dusk and overnight, so if you see one during the day it may well be because it is sick or injured.
If you find an injured or sick hedgehog you can call the BHPS on 01584 890 801 or your local veterinary practice for advice.
Using gardening gloves, you can place the hedgehog into a high sided cardboard box with some hay or straw (or an old towel/fleece) in the bottom for the hedgehog to hide under. You can also offer meaty cat or dog food for it to eat and fresh water to drink (never give hedgehogs bread and/or milk!).