With winter approaching, many of our native species are collecting supplies ready for the cold months ahead. Of all our UK native mammals, hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are one of the only species that truly hibernate throughout the winter months. In October and November, as the temperature starts to drop, and food supplies become scarce, hedgehogs look for somewhere safe to spend the winter, remaining largely inactive from November to the end of March the following year.
In urban areas, hedgehogs can live happily in cemeteries, railway land, wasteland and both public and private gardens hiding out in piles of leaves and wood or under hedgerows, however, with Bonfire Night fast approaching hedgehogs may find themselves in a prickly situation…
Bonfires make the perfect habitat for a hibernating hedgehog, putting themselves unknowingly in harm’s way. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society urges people to think of hedgehogs throughout the winter season and build their bonfire the day they are to be lit, saving hedgehogs and other British wildlife, such as toads, newts and frogs from harm. If you have already built your bonfire you can check for small animals including pets with a torch and a broom pole, or reassemble the pile on clear ground, before lighting it.
In the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30 per cent, disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide, leaving fewer than one million individuals in the UK. Hedgehogs face continued pressure in rural and urban environments, but all is not lost as there is lots you can do to help hedgehogs today!
- Create hedgehog highways – cutting a 13cm x 13cm hole in your fence or digging a channel underneath will allow greater habitat connectivity between private gardens. Read about how to do this here.
- Avoid the use of pesticides – slug pellets and pesticides are toxic for Hedgehogs. Hedgehogs provide their own form of pest control by eating lots of unwanted insects, so encourage them into your garden instead.
- Make water safe – hedgehogs can swim well but struggle to get out of steep-sided ponds, so provide a ramp or create shallow areas for them to climb out.
- Provide nesting sites – Keep your garden a bit scruffy around the edges to allow for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate in piles of leaves, logs and long grass. You can also find out how to build a hedgehog house here.
- Help the hogs stay safe – check for hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, or strimming long grass. Keep garden netting and household rubbish above ground level to prevent entanglement.
For more information about hedgehog conservation in the UK and ways in which you can get involved, check out: Hedgehog Street , The British Hedgehog Preservation Society or The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species
Thank you to Harry Appleyard for the hedgehog image.