Hedgehogs are now critically endangered, here are some facts about our much loved spiney garden friend
Hedgehogs are doing better in urban environments than in rural environments. But they are coming in to contact with more and more vehicles, which is having an impact on their declining numbers. Hedgehogs wonder and make their nests in various places around an area of about 10 to 20 hectares. Which is roughly 10,000 square meters! So, they have a large home range. But, often this space is intersected with homes and roads. Hedgehogs cannot access gardens, and so they are forced to find other ways around their patch. Hedgehogs are not territorial and choose not to fight with each other. But less spaces means less space and access to food for all the hedgehogs in the area.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and generalist feeders, they make great natural pest killers! They eat earthworms, beetles, slugs, millipedes, and caterpillars. If you want to feed any possible hedgehogs in your area, you can put out some wet or dried cat food, or specially formulated hedgehog food. These are better than dog food which tends to have less protein than cat food.
Hedgehogs have two mating seasons per year, one in April and one in September. Their babies are born in June/ July and October/ November.
They will have about 4 – 5 hoglets a time, but are likely to only raise 2 – 3 to maturity. If their nesting site is disturbed the mother will abandon her hoglets and will not return. The hoglets at this point would not survive on their own and intervention is absolutely necessary.
Many late hoglets will also not make it as they have not had the time required to put on the fat stores they will need to get them through winter. If any of these hoglets are found, they will also need intervention.
But mother are caring, and look after their young if left to it. She will raise the little hoglets and when the hoglets are 3 – 4 weeks old they will start to venture out with their mother. After 10 days of being shown the ropes, the hoglets go it alone and start their own adventure.
Hedgehogs do hibernate, although they can wake up and move around during this hibernation if they want to change their nesting site. They slow their heart rate and all other bodily functions to allow them to conserve energy for the spring and summer, resting throughout the winter. They will start their hibernation in October or November and emerge again in March and April.
What can you do to help?
- If allowed, you can create a small hole in your garden fence, only 15cm square, this allows the hedgehog to come in to the garden and forage. If possible you could get your neighbours involved and create a hedgehog super highway!
- Check under and around all large garden plants or shrubs before trimming or replanting, you never know if you are going to disturb a sleeping or breeding hedgehog.
- Take care when driving at night, look carefully as you drive for their little eyes and little bodies
- If you find abandoned hoglets call your local animal rescue centre
- Put out food for the hedgehogs
- If you want to see if you have hedgehogs, read on to find out how to create your own hedgehog tunnel
If you would like to know what the university is doing to help, please join the Hedgehog Friendly Campus initiative.
The fun part, how to make your own hedgehog tunnel using household items!
You will need
- A old thick box or cardboard, or foamboard, or plastic (enough for the tunnel and an insert)
- A4 paper
- Masking tape
- Paper clips, or bulldog clips
- Small food dish or shallow bowl
- Carbon powder or food colouring (black is best for high contrast)
- Vegetable oil
- Cat food or special hedgehog food
- Form a long triangle or square with the cardboard, foamboard or plastic. It needs to be roughly 15cm high and 15cm at the base
- You can tape the edges with masking tape to protect the edges
- Use the tunnel as a template and make an insert for the tunnel, this needs to be the same length and a little narrower, so you can slide this in and out.
- This allows you to check for footprints and replace the food without having to take the tunnel apart
On the insert
- Attach the sheets of paper using the paper clips or bulldog clips on either end of the insert
- Stick the other end down with a little masking tape
- Add 2 strips of masking tape above the paper and below the food
- Place the food dish in the middle (you can cut a little circle out to allow the dish to sit inside the hole as it cannot be knocked over if you wish)
- Mix the food colouring or carbon powder with the vegetable oil
- This will allow the colour to stay wet all night and make sure you get the footprints
- Paint this on to the masking tape
- Place the food in the middle
- Place the tunnel where you would like to use it
- Slide the insert inside
- Leave it overnight and check it in the morning for foot prints!
Now you have a wonderful hedgehog tunnel. You can slide the insert in and out to check it each day and top up the food.