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5 Ways We Can Help  Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs have been one the UK’s most endearing animals since Beatrix Potter drew one in an apron but unfortunately are now in trouble. As hedgehog week comes to an end here are 5 things you can do to help them:

1. Don’t use slug pellets

Killing slugs is never nice but potentially poisoning the rest of your garden wildlife is worse. Slug pellets can directly affect other wildlife and their harsh chemicals can be indirectly ingested through consumption of poisoned slugs.

Flickr | Timo Newton-SymsNon-toxic alternatives are available such as beer traps and even non-lethal methods like crushed seashells and copper bands around the rim of plant pots which slugs hate to crawl over. Slug repellent plants can also be used to border your fruit/veg patch to deter them.

The more accommodating your patch is to hedgehogs and other wildlife (badgers if you’re lucky), the fewer slugs there’ll be too; a much more ecological way to deal with them.

2. Help them move around

Flickr | Paul WilliamsHedgehogs are actually exceptional climbers but that doesn’t mean they’d turn their nose up at a convenient archway carved in your fence. If you can persuade your neighbours too, you could have a Hedgehog Highway that allows them to roam the approx. 2 miles they cover every night.

3. Feed them the right stuff

Slugs, worms and other insects make up the majority of food available to Hedgehogs in UK gardens but, perhaps surprisingly, are also known to eat fallen fruit and bird’s eggs along with scavenged baby frogs and baby birds. Opportunities for this however are less frequent, making their diet mainly insectivorous.  

If you want to actively encourage hedgehogs to visit your garden you can leave food to attract them.  

pixabayNever feed them milk as they are severely lactose intolerant and can harm if not kill them. Bread is also best avoided as it doesn’t provide much sustenance to a hedgehog. There are many much more nutritious alternatives such as non-fish based cat and dog food, minced meat and meat flavoured pet biscuits to help keep their teeth strong. Meal worms and even specific Hedgehog food mixes are also much loved and can be bought in most pet shops.

As for drink, a shallow dish of fresh water will do. Putting food out like this will help hedgehogs all year round but is most needed in the run up to their hibernation, so bare them in mind when autumn/winter comes around.

4. Garden cautiously

Hedgehogs love hogging hedges and any other well covered vegetative dwellings, such as log piles, long grass and compost heaps. Take extra care to check before tilling compost and any dry wood and vegetation you plan on burning before you bonfire.

Sten [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsHedgehogs' first instincts are to curl up under their protective spines and not move, so be sure to have a rummage in the long grass to flush out any hedgehogs that would otherwise be imperilled by mowing or strimming. Or, to avoid the danger altogether, you could “SayNoToTheMow” and allow your garden to remain wild throughout the spring to help all wildlife along.

Further steps to ensure hedgehog safety includes covering any open holes, drains etc. as well as swimming pools. Make a small ramp or easily climbable surface at the edge of your pond to help them out should they fall in. Also put away any tarp, plastic garden sacks and fruit or sports netting to keep them from getting entangled.  

5. Hedgehogs in distress

Flickr | Pete O'Shea Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal, so unless visibly injured or distressed in their usual setting, never touch or move them. However, if you see a hedgehog in the daytime, particularly if motionless or sleeping (they never sleep out in the open) there is probably something wrong. In which case you should pick it up, put it in a box and take it to your nearest wildlife rescue centre.   

These tips can be implemented throughout the year and, if done correctly, can bring new spiny friends into your greenspace and make your garden more wildlife friendly overall.  

By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern

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