The news about hedgehogs is rather depressing at the moment. Repeated studies suggest that our favourite wild native mammal is quietly disappearing from our lives. The latest study suggests that they are doing particularly badly in rural areas. It is lazy and ill informed to blame badgers as the survey shows that they too are absent in many of the same areas. Besides, badgers have predated hedgehogs and competed with them for food for thousands of years without putting a dent in the population. It is more likely that modern agricultural practices have produced a barren landscape for our wildlife.
It now behoves those of us who have access to gardens and allotments to do what we can to help hedgehogs. We should avoid poisons such as slug pellets and pesticides; leave a wild patch including log piles and leaves; plant a variety of flowers that attract insects and make access easy so that hedgehogs can forage throughout linked gardens by creating CD sized gaps in fences.
Hedgehogs love to eat beetles and caterpillars so planting native hedges, shrubs and wildflowers will encourage the invertebrates that hedgehogs feed on. Supplemental feeding of hedgehogs is a great help to them, ensuring guaranteed meals and reducing the stress involved in seeking food. Hedgehogs can be fed with wet or dry cat or dog food, or specialist hedgehog food can be purchased. A simple hedgehog feeding station will keep cats and foxes from stealing the food.
There is no evidence that this additional food source prevents hedgehogs from engaging in their normal foraging behaviour. Here is a series of photographs of a young hedgehog hunting for and finding food on my lawn en route to the feeding station.
I am glad to say that my local hedgehogs have managed to successfully raise at least three hoglets in my garden this year. In addition there have been at least five different adults visiting.
I even had a hedgehog wake up in the middle of the winter snow to visit the feeding station for a snack.
During the heatwave this summer I put out several dishes of water topped up throughout the day and night which was vital for all of our garden wildlife as well as hedgehogs.
It doesn’t take much to make your garden hedgehog friendly and to give them a helping hand so that future generations will not be robbed of the magical pleasure of watching hedgehogs snuffling about.