VAL BOURNE’S GAR­DEN WILDLIFE

We can all do our bit to stop hedge­hog num­bers fall­ing any fur­ther says Val

Amateur Gardening - - Contents - with Val Bourne, AG’s or­ganic wildlife ex­pert

How we can do our bit to help hedge­hog num­bers

WITH its num­bers plum­met­ing the hedge­hog is one crea­ture that gar­den­ers can re­ally help. There were an es­ti­mated 36 mil­lion in the UK in 1950, but by 2015 this had fallen to a mere mil­lion. Roads in par­tic­u­lar are a real haz­ard as these dark-brown crea­tures come out at night, with no high-vis jacket and only a de­fence mech­a­nism to curl up. As a re­sult ur­ban pop­u­la­tions have de­clined by one third since 2000.

Hedge­hogs in ru­ral ar­eas have fared even worse, go­ing down by a half since 2000. Here badgers pre­date them and in­ten­sive farm­ing meth­ods mean that many hedges have been grubbed out, re­duc­ing habi­tat.

Pes­ti­cides have also re­duced their food op­tions. Hedge­hogs have a var­ied diet and con­sume around 100 crea­tures per night, walk­ing be­tween half a mile to a mile in a cir­cu­lar route. Cater­pil­lars, scarabaeid bee­tles and earth­worms ac­count for 55 per cent of their food by weight, but they also eat ear­wigs, cater­pil­lars, earth­worms, mil­li­pedes and slugs. Un­for­tu­nately these are not abun­dant in in­ten­sively farmed fields.

As these lit­tle crea­tures are now opt­ing for towns, cities and vil­lages, The Hedge­hog Preser­va­tion Society ( british­hedge­hogs.org.uk) has come up with the idea of leav­ing a 13cm x 13cm gap in bound­ary fences and walls to cre­ate hedge­hog high­ways. One scheme in Brighton, in­volv­ing a large com­mu­nity group, has been highly suc­cess­ful and you can even be­come a Hedge­hog Cham­pion for your lo­cal area if you go to

 hedge­hogstreet.org

Al­though they are start­ing to hi­ber­nate now, our warmer cli­mate means they might also still be feed­ing. You may also see a hedge­hog dur­ing the day in winter; lead­ing hedge­hog ex­pert, Pat Mor­ris, has found that 60 per cent of hi­ber­nac­ula are used for two months or less and that they some­times wake and move them­selves – so don’t be too ea­ger to rush a good­sized hedge­hog to a res­cue cen­tre.

If you’re about to have a bon­fire then check it be­fore you light it and check the com­post heap too, in case one’s hi­ber­nat­ing there. Al­ways put a plank in a pond, to pro­vide an es­cape route, and leave moss and leaves in cor­ners to pro­vide bed­ding ma­te­rial. It goes with­out say­ing that pes­ti­cides re­duce the crea­tures that hedge­hogs need to sur­vive.

“They are start­ing to hi­ber­nate now”

Hedge­hogs nor­mally come out af­ter dark, but do leave them to their own de­vices if you see one in the day - un­less it’s hav­ing breath­ing prob­lems Cre­ate a gap in your fence and help keep hedge­hogs off the roads. The sign can be bought from british­hedge­hogs.org.uk

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