Over the summer, you may have seen hedgehogs scuttling about in your garden in the evening.
I have a wildlife camera set up in my garden, and I was delighted to see footage of hedgehogs munching on the food I’d left out for them, and huffing at each other! This was particularly great to see, as hedgehog numbers have declined by approximately 50% since the year 2000. As we transition into Autumn and the weather gets a little colder, hedgehogs are beginning to hibernate. Although this means you may not see hedgehogs in your garden anymore, this doesn’t mean they’re not there, and certainly doesn’t mean they don’t need your assistance! The points below are easy tips (and some more challenging projects) for helping hedgehogs in your garden at this time of year:
You may have collected a pile of materials for a bonfire. Hedgehogs will find this pile to be a very inviting hibernation site! The best way to ensure that there are no hedgehogs nesting in the pile is to move it before you light it. If you are unable to move it, make sure to lift up the base with a broom handle and inspect underneath using a torch.
“Look out for Autumnal juveniles. These are hedgehogs that are old enough to be independent from their mother, but are too small to hibernate.”
Make or buy a hedgehog house. This provides a safe place for hibernation. Hedgehog houses can be as simple as an upturned plastic box with a hole cut out for a door, or can be much more sophisticated. Check out: www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for more information
Look out for Autumnal juveniles. These are hedgehogs that are old enough to be independent from their mother, but are too small to hibernate. Hedgehogs can hibernate at 450 grams, but will fair better at 600 grams. If the hedgehog regularly visits at night, happily eats and is active, it is probably best to leave it be and put out food and water for it (more on this topic later). If possible, weigh the hedgehog weekly to make sure it is putting on weight. If you see a hedgehog out during the day in Autumn (this can be OK in the Spring/Summer), having trouble moving around, spending long periods of time curled into a ball when under no threat, or any other behaviour that doesn’t seem quite right, it needs attention. Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society as soon as possible on 01584 890801. If you’re not sure, it’s best to call the number above just to make sure.
In addition to these Autumn-specific tips, below are some tips for helping out hedgehogs all year round:
Make a 13x13cm hole in your garden fence to allow hedgehogs to roam between gardens. Go one step further and ask your neighbours to do the same.
Put a shallow dish of water in your garden for hedgehogs to drink; this is especially important in hot weather. Go one step further and put out a dish of meaty pet food (make sure it’s dairy-free). Caution – don’t offer milk! Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.
Written by the Hedgehog Friendly Campus group at The University of Nottingham.
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