RSPB's Morwenna Alldis and the RSPCA, ask the public to check their bonfire heaps for hedgehogs before lighting them this year. Morwenna also offers some top tips on how the public can help give hedgehogs a home in their gardens.
Since moving to a house with a garden, and basically tripping over a hedgehog whilst hanging out the washing one evening (I can’t remember the last time I’ve been that excited), I’m determined to do all that I can to provide a comfortable home for my local hedgehogs in my own greenspace. I say hedgehogs in the plural, because did you know that up to around ten individual hedgehogs can visit your garden in one night?
Photo 1: Hedgehog by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The most important action you can take to help your hedgehogs at this fizzing, whizzing, sparkly, marshmallowey time of year, is to check your garden bonfire before you light it. Hedgehogs hibernate between November-March and your warm, sheltered bonfire pile is the perfect, seemingly safe haven for them to snuggle down in and begin their long zzz’s. The best option is to build your bonfire on the day you’re going to light it and not before. This will prevent your garden wildlife from bedding down in the pile and save you the hassle of trying to light a potentially sodden bonfire due to last night’s rain. Remember it’s not only hedgehogs that may have sought shelter your bonfire pile, but also amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts too.
RSPCA Wildlife Scientific Officer, Llewelyn Lowen, said: “While bonfires may look like large piles of leaves and wood to us, to a hedgehog and many other animals they are great places to find food and build nests.
“Sadly it’s not uncommon for burned hedgehogs to be rushed into our care after they have been caught up in a lit bonfire - and at this time of year the risk is especially high.
“Because of this we are just reminding people about the importance of taking the time to check bonfires before they are lit.”
Llewelyn added: “It can be very hard to see a brown hedgehog in amongst a pile of wood, and the only way to be sure is to move the bonfire by hand before actually lighting it. It helps to build the bonfire as near as possible to the time of lighting, to ensure hedgehogs and other wildlife are not sleeping in the pile when it is lit.”
For more information about caring for hedgehogs please click here.
If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 1234 999.
Photo 2: Check your bonfires before lighting this November by RSPB
RSPB’s Morwenna offers some top tips on how to give hedgehogs a happy home in our gardens all year round.
Our UK hedgehogs are really struggling - since the year 2000, rural populations have declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third. This terrible decline is in part down to changes to the hedgehog’s natural habitat and ability to access suitable food. Here are some year round top-tips to help your garden Mr and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
Put a hole in it: Our modern preference to swap hedges (safe animal corridors) for impenetrable fences has hindered the ability of small garden mammals, such as hedgehogs, to travel between our gardens to forage. Hedgehogs will journey for around 12 miles a night to seek food and a mate. So if you have a fence place a 13cm x 13cm hole along the bottom of your fence to allow more access – do check with your neighbour first!
Photo 3: Hedgehog hole in a garden fence by Eleanor-Bentall (rspb-images.com)
Feeding hungry hogs: The tradition of bread soaked in milk for hedgehogs is a big no-no and could give the hungry hog an upset stomach. Instead, pop out a saucer of fresh water, some tinned dog or cat food, or some of our dried RSPB Buggy Crunch a healthy and nutritional snack made specifically for hedgehogs: http://bit.ly/2BuggyCrunch. Feeding is especially important now as hedgehogs need to reach the right body fat in order to survive hibernation, especially critical for hoglets born late in the season.
Bridge the gap: Whilst hedgehogs can climb and even swim, they can easily get into difficulty in our garden ponds or even drainage holes and ditches. Install a hedgehog ladder or ramp for easy access out of the hole or pond e.g. bricks stacked in a pond/ditch so they can climb out.
Green mess is best: Hedgehogs like to hibernate and nest in a cosy, sheltered spot so keep your gardens a bit messy, especially at this time of year. If you have a lot of leaf litter, rather than discarding it, sweep it into a pile up a quiet corner of your garden. A messy bottom when it comes to hedges is also beneficial, offering lots of cover for hedgehogs to safely travel between our greenspaces. But be careful when it comes to turning over your compost – hedgehogs will hunker down there too, so please check before you start forking.
Photo 4: Long grass and wood piles are perfect for hedgehogs to shelter in by Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
Don’t be a litter bug: Tidiness in your garden is really important when it comes to storing litter. Plastic bags, netting (including garden fruit nets or tennis nets), the plastic rings from a pack of tins – can all be potentially lethal to hedgehogs if they get trapped. Ensure that litter is stored safely out of harm’s way.
Ditch the slug pellets: Garden chemicals including slug pellets, are extremely harmful to hedgehogs and can cause death. Use natural alternatives such as beer traps, crushed egg shells or coffee grounds. And remember that hedgehogs love to munch slugs and snails, so if you create a chemical free garden haven for them, they’ll sort your pest problem anyway and fill their bellies at the same time.
For more information on how to give nature a home, click here.
Photo 5: Hedgehog by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)