How to help hedgehogs in your garden

Make your garden as hedgehog-friendly as possible and you will soon reap the benefits of nature's natural pest controllers.

Provide wild patches

Leave some undisturbed areas where hedgehogs can forage and take shelter. Strimmers and mowers can cause horrific injuries, so look out for nesting hedgehogs when mowing long grass and wild patches. Initially cut overgrown areas to about a foot long, then check for hedgehogs before cutting any lower.

Make your garden accessible

Leave a hole in fences or newly constructed walls so that hedgehogs can come and go from the garden. On average, hedgehogs travel over a mile a night feeding so they won't be happy trapped in one garden.

Build a compost heap

Hedgehogs love the warmth and security of a compost heap for nesting, as well as the invertebrates it attracts. Take care when turning the heap as forks can easily kill.

Supplementary feeding

Make sure your hedgehogs have a fresh supply of water available, especially in very hot weather. This should be changed every night and the dish cleaned out to reduce disease risk. You could also provide some extra food, which is particularly helpful in autumn when hedgehogs are getting ready to hibernate. A dish of plain, non-fishy pet food is usually best. Place it under something low or cover with a plastic box with a small entrance hole if you want to avoid attracting cats. Please do not put out bread or milk as this makes hedgehogs sick.

Be aware of common hazards

Garden ponds can become death traps, so ensure they have gently sloping sides or a means of escape e.g. a plank of wood leading out of the pond. Check uncovered drains, bean trenches and garage inspection pits daily, to make sure no hedgehogs are trapped, and provide escape routes if possible. Any netting, wiring or string should be kept above ground, preferably by at least a foot, so hedgehogs and other wildlife can go underneath rather than becoming entangled.

Be dog aware

If you or your neighbours have a dog that you know attacks hedgehogs try to warn the hedgehog by switching on an outside light a minute or so before letting the dog out. You might also consider putting the dog on a lead or using a muzzle. These precautions should only be necessary at night.

Be aware of chemicals

Use environmentally safe wood preservatives on sheds and fences, as hedgehogs often lick new smells or substances. Wooden fences that blow down in the wind should be replaced as soon as possible or hedgehogs may be tempted to make their nests underneath them.

Avoid slug pellets and pesticides

Slug pellets are poisonous and eliminate key prey species for hedgehogs - they should not be used. If absolutely necessary, pellets should be placed in a pipe or under a slate inaccessible to hedgehogs.Only purchase pellets that contain a blue dye to deter birds, and a substance to make them taste nasty to hedgehogs. Remove or bury any dead slugs and snails daily. Use other garden pesticides sparingly, or better still not at all. You never know what else they might kill.

Remember, remember the 5th of November!

Bonfire piles are very attractive to nesting hedgehogs. It's best to build and burn bonfires on the same day to avoid tragedy. If this is not possible then gently search though the bonfire with a rake or spade before burning to make sure any wildlife can escape, or move the pile to a new location immediately before setting it alight.

Posted in: Hedgehogs on 07 May 2015

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