A couple of weekends ago I found the cutest little hedgehog in my garden which inspired me to find out some more about this dwindling species and how I can do my bit to help. Although I already knew that they were in decline, I had no idea that their numbers were down by as much as half since 2000.
In fact, The State of British Hedgehogs 2018 report (yes, there is such a thing!) suggests that the hedgehog population is now at one million, compared with three million in the 1950s. Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest concern lies in the countryside due to methods of intensive farming whilst numbers in urban areas are actually recovering.
This decline in rural areas comes at a time when farmers are creating larger fields with fewer field margins, hedgerows and scrublands for the creatures to live and nest. To add to this, the large scale use of pesticides is reducing the amount of prey available for hedgehogs to eat, leaving the odds stacked against them.
Another concern is road deaths, with as many as 150,000 hedgehogs thought to be killed by vehicles on the road each year.
Meanwhile habitats are being created in urban areas which, over recent years, has contributed to a levelled number of hedgehogs in towns and cities.
Whether you live in a rural or urban area, if you have a garden, here’s 5 easy things you can do to encourage hedgehogs.
1. Leave out food and water
Leaving out a shallow bowl of water and food is a great way to supplement hedgehogs’ natural diet. Meat based dog and cat food is said to be especially popular!
2. Create a wild corner
Leaving an untouched corner of your garden will encourage insects which constitute the hedgehogs main diet. Why not pile some leaves and add branches which will make for attractive nesting spots.
3. Remove garden netting
Hedgehogs can easily get tangled in garden netting so don’t leave any lying around (such as sports nets) and, if possible, replace netted fences with more taut structures such as solid metal mesh.
4. Stop using chemicals
Chemical treatments such as pesticides and insecticides kill macro-invertebrates such as worms, slugs and beetles which hedgehogs rely on for food.
5. Build a hedgehog house
You can easily build a hedgehog home for these prickly creatures by building a log pile. Alternatively, and if you have more time on your hands, then the Wildlife Trusts have a great how to guide for something a little more sophisticated!
Since finding this little hedgehog in my garden, I’ve become really interested in the species and have officially registered as a Hedgehog Champion. If you’re like me and want to find out more about these cute creatures and what you can do to help then it’s a great way to access free resources, read tips, map hedgehog sightings and post photos!
If you know of any other ways to encourage hedgehogs or have a story to share then please get in touch via the comments section below.