Our guide to hedgehogs: where to see and how to help hedgehogs in your garden

Britain's hedgehog population is in decline but you can help. Here is our expert hedgehog guide; on where to see, plus easy tips on how to help hedgehogs in your garden 

21st August 2017
Getty

Where to see hedgehogs

The best chance of seeing a hedgehog is on a summer night, as they are nocturnal and hibernate from November to March. Hedgehogs like dry spaces such as under garden sheds, near compost heaps, hedges or even just an untidy bit of your garden. Therefore, be careful when moving or disturbing such spaces. Take special care during the winter months, as the hedgehog will be hibernating. If you make your garden more hedgehog friendly, then you may be able to see them go for food and drink. 

Top hedgehog facts

1. Hedgehogs wander up to 12 miles in one night.

2. Their spines are flexible and can cushion the hedgehog from heavy blows or falls

3. Like humans, hedgehogs have baby teeth that fall out about three weeks after they’re born

4. A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet

5. Hedgehogs are usually silent but will emit snorts while courting. Occasionally, the animal will emit what hedgehog expert Pat Morris calls “the most awful noise – like a very loud pig squeal.” 

6. During hibernation, a hedgehog’s body temperature can fall to less than 10°C, its heart slows to fewer than 20 beats a minute and it virtually stops breathing

7. A hedgehog has two large muscles on either side of its back to raise and lower its quills and curl into a ball.

How to help hedgehogs in your garden

With autumn here, and the breeding season for hedgehogs coming to an end, the young leave their mothers in search of independence. Their first time alone in the wild can be challenging as the autumn and winter months see their food supply (insects, worms, slugs and other garden creatures) beginning to dwindle. If they lack this food they can die during hibernation, so as the weather turns colder it’s good for them to have a comfy garden spot to nest in. In addition, being a key predator of garden pests such as caterpillars, snails and slugs, hedgehogs really are a gardener’s best friends so it’s worth making your garden a habitat they can explore with ease. 

A hedgehog in a garden at night

1. Make your garden a hedgehog highway

Make sure hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden. Hedgehogs will need a 10cm square space to move through.

2. Build a pond ladder

If you have a pond in your garden, make sure there is an easy way for hedgehogs to get in and out. Try building a ramp or ladder. A simpler alternative is to wrap a plank in chicken wire to create a ramp that the hedgehog can grip to escape from water.

3. Find a natural alternative to slug pellets

Laying down slug pellets in your garden not only removes potential food for hedgehogs, but can also kill them. Instead of using toxic pellets, try making a beer trap. Place a container in the ground, making sure to leave it poking out of the ground by a couple of inches to stop other insects falling in, then half-fill the container with beer. A quick internet search will also conjure up plenty of ideas.

4. Watch out for water

A happy swimming hedgehog

Put rocks near the edge of a pond to allow a hedgehog to crawl out; alternatively, introduce a shallow pebbled area which will encourage other wildlife to take a dip too. Make sure to cover up swimming pools when not in use.

5. Check long grass before mowing or strimming

We all know to check for hedgehogs before lighting bonfires or plunging a shovel into the compost heap, but it’s also well worth checking for hedgehog nests before chopping down any long grass.

6. Keep netting off the ground

If you’ve got netting dangling in your garden or garage, make sure you keep it above hedgehog height (about 30cm) to stop the creatures curling up and getting stuck.

7. Avoid giving them milk

Hedgehog drinking water - not milk

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so ignore the old wives tale and don’t leave out a saucer of milk for your prickly pals. Provide fresh, plain water instead.

8. Keep your garden a bit untidy

Too much neatness (such as decking and neat and smooth fencing) won’t help them. Talk to your neighbours and, if they agree, cut 13cmx13cm holes in your fences or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to connect your gardens.

9. Check your recycling

Crush tin cans and cut the plastic rings that connect cans as both can be hazards for small mammals. 

10. Create a hedgehog haven

Create, or buy, a hedgehog house in your garden

Leave piles of logs and fallen leaves for hedgehogs to nest in – and, in autumn, prepare for hibernation. Don't forget to check these for any hedgehogs if pulling them apart. 

Bonfire/Getty
Take care to keep hedgehogs out of your bonfire this autumn/Getty

How to keep hedgehogs out of your bonfire

1. If collecting wood beforehand, make sure to keep it under tarpaulin or in a shed

2. Don't construct the bonfire until the actual day of your festivities, then move it to a different spot if kept there for a  while

3. If you're having a large bonfire that needs to be built in advance, place chicken wire one metre high around the area,  held in place with stakes and angled outwards, so that the hedgehogs cannot climb it

4. Before lighting, shine a torch into the stack and listen for a hissing sound - this is the noise hedgehogs make when disturbed

A hedgehog in autumn leaves - beware of bonfires

If you do find a hedgehog in a bonfire:

1. Wear gardening gloves, which stops human scent getting on them, minimises stress to them and saves your hands from spines

2. If you spot a hedgehog in your bonfire, use a pole or broom handle to lift the pile

3. Take as much of the nest as you can and place into a high-sided cardboard box with holes in the top, lined with newspaper and old towelling

4. Make sure the lid is firmly secured, or the hedgehogs may climb out and injure themselves

5. Place the box in a shed or garage away from the bonfire and noise of fireworks, which will scare them

6. Give them food and fresh water

7. Once the bonfire has completely dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs, leaving out more food and water

8. Try and release them the same night if possible, to reduce stress

 

 

Images: Getty

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