Saturday, 9 June 2012

Hedgehogs Need Your Help!

I took the opportunity to learn more about being a hedgehog during my visit to Secret World.  Of course I know a fair bit about actually being a hedgehog but it’s always good to get a human perspective on our world which I can share with you all.  I also wanted to let you know how you can help wild hedgehogs as we need your help and make good garden friends you know.

Hedgehogs aren’t just handsome (as a friend remarked on my appearance on my Facebook page) we are also valuable friends to have around your garden as we are one of the best pest controllers there are.  As anyone who has had me visit them will know I do have a rather large appetite but did you know an adult hedgehog like me can clear a slug-infested garden in three months?  Hedgehogs are insectivores which mean we eat slugs, beetles, worms and caterpillars.  Bread and milk isn’t good for us but poorly or rescue hedgehogs can be fed cat or puppy food.

Hutches at Secret World.  Note the hedgehog friendly pile of logs!

Unfortunately hedgehog numbers have dropped by 25% over the last decade.  Changes in farming practices haven’t helped but most hedgehogs actually live in suburban areas so I’m sorry to say that its changes in people’s gardening which have actually caused hedgehog numbers to fall so drastically in recent years.   

Hedgehogs do, unsurprisingly, like hedges to hang out in but hedges have been replaced by fences and walls with no gaps for us to get in and out of the garden - effectively locking us out from helping you with your slug problem.  People are also paving or decking their gardens, and appearance and tidiness seems to matter more than having the odd wildlife friendly area.  

At Secret World.  Here the hedgehogs go outside when they are feeling better before being released
So what can you do to get your own wild hedgehog friend helping you with your garden?  We like:
  • piles of leaves and longer grass
  • a source of drinking water - if it’s a pond please make sure we can escape if we fall in
  • log piles, compost heaps, hedges/shrubs
  • hedges or walls and gates with gaps for us to get underneath or through.   
Basically a hedgehog, like humans, needs food, water and shelter.  But unlike humans you can provide for a hedgehog with a good compost heap!  If you haven’t got a hedge then shrubs or keeping a wild bramble patch will do – we’re not that fussy.  If you leave some leaf litter that will be perfect for us to make a nest with and did you know slugs also like to eat leaves so they will be eating them rather than your plants while the hedgehog will be eating the slugs.  Once you have a hedgehog in your garden keep it safe by checking any fruit nets aren’t too close to the ground and check your bonfires before you light them please. 

Hedgehog Fallacies
Many people don’t want hedgehogs in their garden as they think we have lots of fleas.  All wildlife has some fleas and hedgehogs have no more than any other wild animal.  Hedgehog fleas only live on hedgehogs so it’s not true that encouraging hedgehog will mean your pets ‘catch’ our fleas!  Of course personally I have no fleas at all!

Hedgehog Facts
  • ·         Hedgehogs are nocturnal and adult hedgehogs are solitary.
  • ·         Hedgehogs have 2 litters a year between June to July and September to October.  We have on average 4 or 5 hoglets but litters can be as large as 8.
  • ·         Hoglets are born blind without spines which develop within an hour of birth.  Baby spines are soft and white with brown spines appearing within a few days.  Eyes open after two weeks.
  • ·         Weaning takes place after 3 – 4 weeks when the hoglets will follow their mother on foraging trips.  The hoglets leave home at around 6 to 8 weeks old.
  • ·         Hedgehogs hibernate from November to around February/March when there is no food.
Having a much deserved cuppa after all that learning!
Back soon with a hedgehog's-eye view of the Jubilee

Many blessings on your hedgehog helping

Hedgehog information and facts courtesy of Secret World Wildlife Rescue  and the Guardian Online.

To find out how you can help Secret World with their rescue work visit their website or donate via Indie Shaman's Charity Fund to help continue my adoption.

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