VAL BOURNE’S GARDEN WILDLIFE
We can all do our bit to stop hedgehog numbers falling any further says Val
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
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