Hedgehogs are a firm favourite when it comes to spotting wild mammals up close. Sadly, their population is declining across the UK; since the year 2000, hedgehog numbers have declined by half in our countryside and a third in our cities and suburbs.
The good news is that the decline in urban areas may be slowing, possibly even turning around, according to analysis from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society & People#s Trust for Endangered Species. This is most likely thanks to the efforts of local communities working to help bolster the urban hedgehog populations. Carry on reading to learn how you can join the effort and help these prickly creatures...
Thinking of providing a home for your resident hedgehog? You can create or buy a hedgehog home that will offer a hibernation site that's safe from predators in the winter. It could also be used as a nesting box for a mother and her hoglets in the warmer months.
Hedgehogs won't usually eat and sleep in the same place so it's best not to offer food inside the home, except to initially tempt them. Once there is an adorable resident permanently living in the little hidey-hole, move any food away from the box to ensure it doesn't attract predators or rival hedgehogs. If your garden or the hedgehog home is particularly exposed to the elements, a large stone or brick on top of the house will help to weight it down - but make sure it's secure.
Whilst it's great to encourage hedgehogs to visit your garden, you should never actively move them as there may be a nest of dependant young that rely on them. It may also cause distress and the area might not be suitable.
Hedgehogs are omnivores, but the bulk of their diet consists of macroinvertebrates such as beetles and worms. Supplementary food can include cat, dog, or meaty formulated hedgehog food. Access to water is also important so make sure they're hydrated by leaving a little dish of clean water and keeping it topped up, especially in the hot summer months when natural water sources run dry.
Pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides can all be highly toxic, impact non-target species, and both, directly and indirectly, impact hedgehogs. Herbicides can directly reduce earthworm density and reduce the varied ground cover needed for foraging, affecting the food chain of our small and spikey friends. Slug pellets are also potentially lethal if directly ingested by hedgehogs and reduce important prey sources, which may result in starvation. Hedgehogs are a natural slug repellent as they find these bugs and grubs to be a delicious delicacy - so welcome them into your garden and let them feast!
For a more hedgehog-friendly solution to pest problems, try using organic alternatives. Examples of organic slug repellents include wood pellets, broken egg shells, and adhesive copper tape.
Foxes & dogs can cause hedgehog mortality, so if you know you have a resident bushpig in your garden, keep your canine companion away from the area where they nest.
Badgers are the main natural predator of hedgehogs, they also compete for similar prey. However, the two species can sustainably co-exist as long as there's enough feeding and nesting habitat for both.
A good network to provide nesting habitat and cover for hedgehogs is essential. Fence or screen off prime natural nesting areas to reduce disturbance from predators, ensuring that hedgehogs can still get through the fence or screen. Purpose-built hedgehog houses can provide additional protection.
Hedgehogs have no flight reflex and nest year-round, making them vulnerable to injury from garden machinery.
The timing and method of habitat clearance impact hedgehogs but need to be balanced with other biodiversity needs. When trimming your grass, a high-cut, low-cut method allows nest checks in between, and increasing the blade height of mowers will minimise the risk of hedgehog injury.
Check bonfires for sleeping hedgehogs, or preferably resite the entire bonfire onto clear ground just before lighting it. Once you've checked there are no creatures in the pile, light it from only one side to allow an escape route for any critters you may have missed.
Hedgehogs are good swimmers, but they can become trapped in ponds and pools with sheer sides. Keep water levels topped up and, if possible, provide a gentle slope, ramp or half-submerged rock in the water to act as an escape route for them.
Make sure hedgehogs have easy access into and out of your garden by creating a hedgehog highway for them. This means leaving a 13cm x 13cm gap in the fences or wall on each side of your outdoor space to let them wiggle on through. You may want to chat with your neighbours about it before you go sawing a hole in your dividing fence though - hopefully they'll love the idea just as much as we do!
Take care on the roads, especially at night! A hedgehog's natural defence mechanism is to roll into a ball, which is sadly no match for a vehicle. To prevent any accidents, make sure you keep your eyes on the road, have your lights on, and take it slow - especially on more rural roads where hedgehogs may be scurrying along.
The Range is partnering with Johnston & Jeff and Mr Fothergill's to create rewilding areas around our stores. This includes the planting of wild flowers, providing habitats for wildlife big and small. Why not dedicate an area of your own garden to wildlife and let nature do its thing?
Like these ideas? The British Hedgehog Preservation Society have lots more tips on helping to support hedgehogs and you can discover other ways to help wildlife blossom in your garden by reading our articles below!