There are 15 different species of hedgehog around the world, but only one species of hedgehog lives in the UK. And, in the UK, the hedgehog is presently in decline. Although its difficult to track hedgehog populations, it seems they are disappearing at a rate of approximately 5% per year.
The hedgehog is a surprisingly adaptable creature, managing to get along very well in urban environments as well as out in woodland. An urban landscape has advantages for hedgehogs, as there are fewer badgers to prey upon the hedgehogs, but many hedgehogs are killed each year by cars.
Although nocturnal and hard to spot, hedgehogs leave behind signs of habitation for you to spot. So even if you’ve never seen one in your garden, they might still be there! If you think you might have hedgehogs sheltering in your garden, or using it as a pathway to other gardens, here’s some tips on how to help this beautiful little animal thrive.
Here’s 5 simple things you can do to help hedgehogs
Leave out food
Hedgehogs need to gain weight over the summer and autumn in order to hibernate and will appreciate any extras you can leave out for them. Tinned dog or cat food (but not fish-based) will often be welcomed. Specialist hedgehog food is also available online or from garden centres.
An average hedgehog may walk as many as 2 miles each night in search of food. Their meanderings are often cut short by boundary fences or walls between gardens. A small hole in a fence or a beneath a gate can go a long way in helping hedgehogs wander far enough to feed adequately. Talk to your neighbours and the other people in your street and maybe you can get everyone helping out!
Tidy gardens may look nice to us, but they’re absolute anathema to hedgehogs. Weeds and overgrown borders aren’t just great places for hedgehogs to hide, they’re a rich source of food for hedgehogs – a hedgehog supermarket, if you like! Try to keep at least a small space in your garden as wild as you can to help hedgehogs find shelter and food.
Slugs, snails and aphids are not a gardeners favourite. But they’re a great source of food for lots of animals. If you can invite hedgehogs into your garden with a nicely overgrown patch, see if they’ll help you out by eating up those slugs that keep munching your veggies! Slug pellets, a known hazard to hedgehogs, should be avoided. Other insecticides affect hedgehogs by reducing the amount of mini-beasts on the hedgehog menu. And if food supplies are lean, hedgehogs will look elsewhere.
Join an animal society
A really, really easy way to help hedgehogs is to donate to a campaign or organisation that actively helps hedgehogs. This is ideal for those without a garden space. You can donate your time and/or money – most hedgehog hospitals are run by volunteers, so they’ll probably welcome a donation and a willing pair of hands!
Here’s a short list of organisations that will welcome you!