Posted 13th Jun 2017
Snuffles Hedgehog Rescue talk us through what you need to do to make your garden a hedgehog friendly area
Start off by creating a gap between gardens. Hedgehogs will need access to between 12 and 15 medium sized gardens to find enough natural food. The key message here is to make sure it is a 5" square gap through your fence or under the gravel board on each side of the garden. You can encourage your neighbours to do the same so you create a series of 'linked' gardens for hedgehogs to explore and hunt for food.
Another option is to buy hedgehog friendly gravel boards and fencing panels which will have pre-made hedgehog sized holes.
Create a compost heap and / or wood pile
Not only are these ideal nesting sites, they also act as a great source of insects. Before you use a garden fork, check for hedgehog droppings or entrance holes - thousands of hedgehogs will die annually due to gardening injuries.
Leave areas of your garden untouched and wild
You should leave an area of your garden uncultivated - hedgehogs and other wildlife can use fallen leaves, twigs and dead vegetation to build their nests. Wild areas will also provide a home for the insects that hedgehogs and birds love to feed on. Pregnant females can use the area to nest build in preparation for the birth. Over cultivated and neat gardens will mean hedgehogs won't have shrubs, grass, bracken and leaves which are necessary to build a nest.
Avoid slug pellets and other chemicals
Blue slug pellets which contain Metaldehyde can poison hedgehogs and other wildlife. Instead, try using alternative slug management methods - for instance, Nematodes, and a product called Slug Gone (which is made from natural materials such as a sheep's wool).
Make ponds safe
Hedgehogs can swim but will often fall into ponds and be unable to get out. Therefore, create a sloping edge using stones, or a ramp covered in chicken wire to allow them to climb out easily.
Keep garden netting above ground level
Hedgehogs will get tangled in netting and can end up losing a leg or even die from shock. Place netting at lease 0.5m above ground level, and be sure to remove any sports nets from your garden after you've used them.
Keep deep holes or drains covered
If a hedgehog should fall into an uncovered drain or a deep hole, it may be unable to get out. This will subsequently mean it will most likely die of cold, hunger or exhaustion, so ensure you keep them covered.
Check overgrown areas before mowing, strimming or digging
This is crucial. When hedgehogs feel in danger, their natural reaction is to freeze and curl up into a ball. This means thousands will die each year as a result of strimming injuries. Therefore, make sure you check for hedgehog nests before gardening. If you do happen to find a sleeping hedgehog, do not move or disturb it. Instead try to work around it.
Provide visiting hedgehogs with food and water
Speak to your neighbours to see if they've seen any signs of hedgehog activity in your garden or nearby gardens, and keep your eyes peeled. The typical signs will include hedgehog droppings or actual hedgehog sightings. The main breeding season is between May and September, and female hedgehogs will need to eat farm more in order to maintain their weight to care for their young. At this time of year, if you know they are around or passing through, ensure there is access between gardens and put out some extra food (for instance a sachet of beat based cat or dog food in jelly or meat based cat biscuits) and a bowl of water at night. Check the food bowl in the morning to see if it has been eaten and either way, remove the bowl and replace it the next night. Avoid feeding them bread or milk as they are lactose intolerant, and this can cause diarrhoea which can be potentially fatal.
As a general rule, if you see a hedgehog out during the day looking sluggish and lying around, this is a sign that it is unwell and in need of medical attention. A hedgehog doesn't necessarily have to look injured to be ill, as there are internal infections which can kill a hedgehog in hours. However, sometimes a healthy hedgehog will be out during the day and should be left alone. Usually this will be during the breeding season from May to September, and you can see a very purposeful hedgehog to nest build in preparation for the birth or after the birth, females will come out during the day to take a break. In both cases, it is vital you do not remove the hedgehog from the garden.
For further details on how to create a hedgehog friendly garden and much more visit the Snuffles website www.snuffles-rescue.com. In an emergency call the British hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 for details of your local hedgehog rescue.
Tips courtesy of Snuffles Hedgehog Rescue