Ep.1 Hedgehog Awareness Week
Our first episode of The Wildlife Community podcast is all about Britain’s favourite wild animal, the hedgehog. To celebrate Hedgehog Awareness Week, we want to dive into the stats and facts behind why this much-loved creature has recently landed itself on the Red List for endangered species. And what we can all do to try and encourage and care for hedgehogs in our own gardens and green spaces.
Listen to the podcast here, and find out more information below.
What is Hedgehog Awareness Week?
Running this year from 2nd to 8th May, Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and aims to raise awareness of the problems our hedgehogs are experiencing. This year, the charity has asked us to look at how we can turn our gardens into hedgehog havens. Teaming up with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, they’re particularly looking for people to become Hedgehog Champions and to encourage your street, cul-de-sac or village to create a Hedgehog Highway to ensure hedgehogs can move between gardens freely and easily.
Fay Vass is the Chief Executive of the BHPS and is featured on the podcast. She says they were formed as a charity in 1982, “We are going from strength to strength, but despite our efforts hedgehogs are in decline. So we are needed now more than ever.
“Hedgehog numbers have declined dramatically since 2000. By half in rural areas and a third in urban areas. Numbers which are unsustainable and show a worrying decline. We want everyone to make small changes in their gardens to improve habitats for hedgehogs.
“There are probably areas of the country where there aren’t any hedgehogs at all. It’s really important to open up habitats for them so they have access to food, shelter and mates. The most important thing you can do in your garden or green space is make sure it is accessible to hedgehogs. All you need is a 13cm square gap, about the size of a CD case. Hedgehogs can travel one to two miles a night. That’s a lot of gardens.”
How do I make my garden hedgehog friendly?
Apart from allowing access into and out of your garden, you can also look at trying to turn your garden into a mosaic habitat. Even if it’s a small space, try to introduce a pond, or small patch of water – even an upturned dustbin lid is fine! Have a compost heap, a log pile, a hedgerow somewhere, some wildflowers and short and long grass areas of your lawn. This combination of textures and natural resources helps not just hedgehogs to shelter and to breed in comfort, but the invertebrates that they like to feed on as well.
(Photograph of Paul's hedgehog mum as mentioned on the podcast)
Ecologist Chantal Brown, who also features on the podcast says the first thing we should do is to make sure our gardens are safe for hedgehogs, “Try and do chemical free gardening, no slug pellets. Provide lots of habitats they can use – leaf piles, compost piles and dead wood stacks for hiding and hibernating, but also for beetles to live which is a wonderful source of food for hedgehogs.
“If you think hedgehogs are visiting then it’s a great idea to put out food. Use specific hedgehog food and remember that milk and bread is very harmful to hedgehogs. Over winter hedgehogs loose a lot of weight during hibernation and they need to build themselves up before breeding.
“There are three critical windows for feeding hedgehogs. Early spring when they are waking up hungry. During the breeding season, when you should give them everything they need so they can provide milk for their pups. And then all of autumn when they are building up their resources to sustain themselves through a long cold winter.”
Specifically formulated Hedgehog Food is available to buy from Cotswold Granaries and comes in fully compostable packaging. The Hogilo which Helen mentions in the podcast and which her garden hedgehog feeds inside, is available here.
Question from our followers
This episode’s Question from our Followers concerned the age old problem of rats. If you are going to put down hedgehog food or other titbits for your hoggies, then there’s always a chance you could entice rats into your garden. The basic tips are to:
Ensure you only leave out as much food as is needed for your hedgehog each night. About a palm sized amount is fine for one hedgehog. More if you have more visiting regularly.
Learn the timings of your hedgehogs and try to only put the food out just before you expect them. And then remove any leftover food the next morning straight away.
Paul’s top tip, learnt from the Wildlife Gardening Forum, is to look at placing a hinged plastic see-through door on whatever you are using as a hedgehog house in which you place the hedgehog food. Rats could be deterred as they won’t smell the food, but hedgehogs will still go through the door to see what’s inside.
Hedgehog Job of the Month
One of the easiest ways to make a huge different to hedgehogs in your local area is to improve their access into and out of your garden. As mentioned by all of our experts in this podcast episode, you do that by cutting a CD sized hole into fences and gates. The most important thing is to make sure you ask your neighbour’s permission before you do this! You never know if they have a rabbit or (very) small dog which it might affect. It’s also not necessarily your fence! But if it gives you an opportunity to pop next door and talk about how to help hedgehogs, then all the better. Find out more here.
The Hedgehog Footprint Trick
As Paul mentions on the podcast, you can try to investigate whether you have a hedgehog visiting your garden by using the footprint identification method. Create a small tunnel which your hedgehog has to walk down, or watch where you think your hedgehog is walking each night, and pop down a pad of vegetable based ink and some white paper. Or a shallow walkway of compacted sand. In the morning, take a look and compare the footprint size and detailing. You can find out more from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.