Photo by Emma Farley
In late August we spotted one of our hedgehogs out in the day time. Hedgehogs shouldn’t be out in the day, so I popped it in a box with some shredded paper to snuggle in, and food and water. Our local wildlife rescue had just closed by the time I had it inside, so I settled it in for the night and checked on it regularly until I went to bed planning to take it to the rescue centre first thing in the morning.
Sadly, when I woke the hedgehog had already passed away. We took it in anyway to be sure and it turns out that while it had died, it was good for them to note where it was from.
We don’t know what it died of but it did have fly strike, fleas, and a tick.
Parasites are a big problem for hedgehogs and it seems to show this time of year. When talking with Emma of LittleSilverHedgehog, who rescues hedgehogs herself, I learnt that many hedgehogs are being weakened by internal parasites such as lungworm, fluke, and roundworm. This might be due to the hedgehogs eating too many slugs and snails, which are a host species, and warmer winters that don’t kill off as many parasites as colder ones.
In addition I have heard of a recent study published in the journal Mammal Review that found the distribution of hedgehogs in the UK was even lower than anticipated, and we’ve known that their numbers have been declining for some time, so I think we all really need to do what we can if we want to keep seeing our spiky friends.
I have seen several hedgehogs in my garden this year and I feel very lucky to have them. In May of this year we made CD sized holes in the gravel boards of our fences to let them in and we’ve been seeing them ever since. At least one comes every night for some food, I have used baited footprint tunnels to capture the footprints of our visiting hedgehogs, and we’ve spent time watching them from the patio doors.
Here’s how to help:
|Habitat fragmentation||Ensure access to your garden. 13cm holes in gravel boards, under or through boundaries.|
|Habitat quality||Log piles, leaves, and lots of planting. Good habitat will provide food and shelter.|
|Food||Provide hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food (no fish or gravy), kitten biscuits, water. No bread or milk. Good planting and dead wood will provide more insects for the hogs to eat too.|
|Disturbance||Do not disturb hibernating hedgehogs Oct to Apr, and watch out for nests in the summer; a mother hedgehog could leave her young is she is disturbed. If you do disturb one call a rescue centre for advice.|
|Garden equipment||Check before strimming please.|
|Bonfires||Always move piles before burning.|
|Hibernation/nesting places||Provide log piles, leaves, and/or nest boxes in a quiet spot.|
As with most conservation issues things are complicated and many factors play a part, but doing what you can from the table will help.
Habitat loss and fragmentation is a big issue for hedgehogs because they need several connected gardens to find enough food; they can travel up to 2 miles a night. They prefer beetles and caterpillars, but do eat slugs and snails if they need to, which is how they pick up parasites. Providing good habitat will help provide more beneficial insects for the hedgehogs.
It’s been in the news that hedgehogs should not be fed during autumn and winter, but I follow hedgehog rescue centres and charities and their advice continues to be that hedgehogs should be fed during this time, and that there is not currently any evidence to support a change. Hedgehogs may need the supplementary food to fatten up for hibernation. [BHPS].
If you do have hedgehogs in your patch, and have a hedgehog house, please check out Hedgehog street’s housing census. They’re looking for information about hog houses to figure how they’re being used, and which designs are best.