We have all heard about the humble hedgehog, even if we have never seen one alive in the wild. Britain’s only spiny mammal was once widespread across the whole of the UK and Europe, but is now seriously in decline. It is predicted that they will become extinct within only ten years. But there is hope. PMPer Kay Millson tells you how you can help reverse this decline.
How you can help
- Stop using “pest” control – this includes herbicides, pesticides, slug pellets and other poisons. Beetles and caterpillars are a favourite food for hedgehogs, when contaminated and eaten, they kill the hedgehog (and birds, bats, etc.)
- Open up your garden – or better still a chain of interlinked gardens. Putting a small hole 10cm x 10cm (4” x 4”) in a gate or fence allows hedgehogs access to forage. They travel up to 2 miles a night so need a network of safe gardens to wander through.
- Water – vital for all wildlife. A shallow dish (plant pot dishes are great. Put a stone in if using plastic to stop the hogs tipping it up). If you have a pond, ensure there are sloping sides or create an escape route/ramp. Hedgehogs are good swimmers but tire quickly.
- Support your nearest rescue – there are people caring for hedgehogs all over the country – mostly self-funding – that are reliant on support from the public. See below for details of how to find your nearest.
- Help larger organisations support our wildlife – the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species all have projects to help.
When a hedgehog needs help
- If out during the day. Hedgehogs are nocturnal. They never sunbathe. The only exception to this is in spring/summer where a larger hedgehog can be seen walking with purpose often carrying leaves, etc. This is likely to be a female with young.
- If it has numerous ticks or fleas.
Myth busting and hoggie facts
An adult hedgehog has over 5000 spines or quills.
“Hedgehogs are riddled with fleas that will infect me and my house”. Most hedgehogs DON’T have fleas. Those that do are generally ill and in serious need of assistance to survive. Hedgehog fleas are host specific so they cannot survive on another species such as you or your pets.
Hedgehog babies, called hoglets (average around 4 per litter) are born with the quills just under the skin, they erupt through within about two hours.
“Hedgehogs will eat all the slugs” – sadly, though they will eat slugs and snails. A hedgehog’s preferred food is beetles and caterpillars. Slugs and snails carry a parasite which gives hedgehogs potentially fatal lungworm. They are also at risk from eating slugs/snails that have ingested slug pellets which then also kill the hedgehog.
Find a rescue
Most rescues are small and ran from people’s homes, so you may have one close but never know! Many rescues have social media pages – so do a quick search, you may be surprised to find there’s one round the corner from you. Better to know where to take a sick hedgehog and never need it than waste time finding one when the need arises.
Thanks for reading, hope you found the piece interesting and informative.