Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Save the British Hedgehog
When did you last see a British hedgehog in the wild?
Advent Day 15
British hedgehogs usually disappear around about the end of November and begin their Winter hibernation. So we cannot expect to see them in our gardens for a few months. However I was struggling to remember when I last saw a hedgehog in the wild.
These beautiful creatures are covered in thousands of spines called quills. They have pointed cone shaped heads, perfect for poking into small holes in search of insects. They are nocturnal and have poor sight so they rely on their sense of smell and hearing to detect food.
Hedgehogs need our help.
Communities around the UK are being encouraged to become part of the National Hedgehog Street Campaign. This is a fantastic opportunity to do something to help halt the decline in the number of hedgehogs.
It is estimated there has been a 30% drop in the number of hedgehogs over the last ten years. They need to be able to forage over a large area. This will help them to maintain body weight, especially before they go into hibernation. The name hedgehog tells us about how they like to move, they like to hog the hedges and fence lines and this creates problems.
Create a hedgehog highway.
There are too few gaps in our garden fences and this is a barrier to their movement. They can forage a distance of a mile each night. If they have to spend time looking for ways around obstacles they are not feeding enough with subsequent results. So one simple thing we could do is to create a small hole at ground level along our our fence line, about the size of a CD case. The hedgehogs can then move from garden to garden, as well as extending their range, it also keeps them away from roads.
Make your garden hedgehog friendly.
Provide a good supply of insects for them to feed on. So in the Summer grow plants that insects love, plenty of open flowers and rich nectar sources. Don’t clear up your garden too much, leave plants as they die back, they provide great shelter for insects over the weather gets colder. Perfect for fueling the hedgehog prior to hibernation. Provide an easily accessible water source so that the hedgehog can enter and get out of safely. Never leave out milk, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and it can make them very sick.
Most importantly, bin the slug pellets, they kill hedgehogs if they eat them and tidy up any plastic netting or bags. Hedgehogs can get tangled in them.
Leave piles of leaves in the corner of your garden for hedgehogs to build a nest or build a hedgehog home for them to nest in. Go to Hedgehog Street and discover what others have been doing to build ‘hibernacula’ for their resident hedgehogs.
How does the British Hedgehog escape predators?
‘The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.’
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
They have the perfect defense method for dealing with predators, they roll into a ball tucking their soft parts away leaving their quills sticking out. They then lie very still. Fine if it is a predator like a fox but a bad move if the thing they are trying to avoid is a motor vehicle and many hedgehogs are killed on our roads.