Remember hedgehogs on the 5th
THE worst thing about the Fifth of November is the fact that it clashes with the time when a lot of our wildlife is just hunkering down for winter.
Hedgehogs will be looking for somewhere to hibernate, while mice and voles will be slowing up their metabolisms to cope with the colder temperatures.
Suddenly lots of piles of wood and leaves will look really inviting for small mammals and frogs and toads. And some bonfires will have been around for weeks making them a really safe haven – until the first week in November.
I still have the stench of the moorland fires in my nostrils and the memories of tiny animals and birds running to avoid a horrible death. Now I fear we may lose more of our precious creatures and our poor hedgehogs are having a terrible time anyway.
There used to be millions of these wonderful spiky creatures running around the UK, we believe there are less than 800,000 left. Deaths on roads, pesticides and the removal of hedgerows from the countryside appear to be a major problem for our hogs’ - bonfires have been another historic problem.
Interestingly, awareness of the hedgehog’s plight may have led to a small spike in numbers recently. I have certainly been approached by a lot more people who have seen them in gardens and parks.
Even I saw one in my mum’s garden in Salford. The dog was nose-to-nose with this interesting creature. I removed the dog from the scene and let the hedgehog wander off into mother’s hedge.
Garden hedges and awareness that these mammals need to wander between four or five gardens to look for grubs and worms may be a boon for them.
Hedgehog houses and piles of leaves in gardens will have also helped. Many people help out by feeding plain cat food and water to the hogs if they spot them nearby.
They have a reputation as a gardener’s best friend, happily hoovering up pesky slugs, so we should cherish them.
Living, on average, two to three years, they are round, brown and covered in yellow-tipped spines – they have around 7,000 on their body. When they are not rolled up in a defensive pose, they will look out with cute faces ending in a pretty little nose.
They hibernate from November to April and their nests of leaves and logs are called a “hibernaculum”. They may appear on warmer days in winter which can cause problems, so that is a good time to provide a bit of food.
You may find hedgehogs snuffling around your garden but other signs are medium-sized, black droppings, full of insect bits, on the lawn.
Imagine if we all did our bit to save the hedgehog. It might just mean going through the leaves and wood under your bonfire before you set it alight this year.
You must make sure any wildlife is out of way before the fun begins.
●●A hedgehog shuffling along a path