How to be hedgehog friendly by Sustainability Content Editor Jess Tasney (words) and University of Worcester Digital Creative student Phoebe West (illustrations)
With an average of over 5000 spines, their powerful sense of smell, and their tendency to travel up to two miles a night as they forage (read more here), hedgehogs are consistently recognised as one of our most-loved wildlife animals in the UK.
But according to a recent study, British hedgehogs are now officially vulnerable to extinction, with less than 500,000 believed to be left. This has led to serious concerns about the potential loss of our spikey friends and what this means for our ecosystems.
So what can we do to help?
In a bid to make its campus more hedgehog-friendly, the university has taken a series of exciting steps, from creating a new hedgehog home and introducing ‘wild corners’ on campus, to installing its very own hedgehog highway. And the best thing is, many of us can easily replicate these steps in our own gardens and local communities. Read on for five tips you can follow to help hedgehogs thrive in your local area:
1.) Create your own hedgehog highway
Hedgehogs need to cover a lot of distance at night to stay healthy. One easy way that you can help hedgehogs to do this is to create access through your garden fences. You can do this by cutting out a CD-sized hole in one or several of your fence panels. This allows hedgehogs to roam freely by preventing them from becoming fenced in with limited access to food and water, or from being forced to use dangerous human roads to get about.
2.) Introduce ‘wild corners’ into your garden
If you have a garden, why not dedicate a corner to creating a hedgehog friendly space? To do this, you could create log piles which are a great natural shelter for hedgehogs, and you can also plant native wildflowers, shrubbery, weeds and nettles to encourage a healthy supply of insects which hedgehogs can live on. Even dedicating a small section of your garden to this will have a huge impact for the hedgehogs in your area.
3.) Build a hedgehog home
Just like us, hedgehogs need a home. To support your local hedgehog populations, you could build or install a hedgehog home in your garden. Hedgehog homes are small and secure shelters that can keep your hedgehogs stay warm and safe when they sleep. For a how-to guide on building hedgehog homes, take a look at this advice from the Wildlife Trust.
4.) Provide your local hedgehogs with some much-needed food and water
Hedgehogs can struggle to find food and water, especially in the dryer summer months. To help hedgehogs stay healthy, try leaving out some hedgehog food which can be bought from wildlife food suppliers. Other foods you can leave out for hedgehogs also include foods like tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based), dried mealworms, and crushed dog or cat biscuits (read here for more information). Together with a shallow bowl of water, you have a perfect hedgehog meal!
5.) Avoid using slug pellets in your garden and remove any hedgehog hazards
According to Hornbeam Wood Hedgehog Sanctuary, slug pellets can be very bad news for hedgehogs. Slug pellets contain the chemical metaldehyde which can be very damaging for wildlife, including hedgehogs. In high doses, metaldehyde can cause serious health issues and even death for some hedgehogs. The outdoor use of metaldehyde is set to be banned in Britain from March 2022, but until then, avoid using slug pellets and try these alternatives suggested by Hornbeam Wood Hedgehog Sanctuary here.
You can also do your part for our local hedgehogs by making sure you have removed hazards such as netting, unnecessary barbed wire, and disused bonfires from your garden.
If you don’t have a garden or access to outdoor space where you can put some of these tips to use, don’t worry – you can still do lots to help local hedgehog populations thrive! Even just speaking with friends and family about how they can create hedgehog friendly spaces has a huge impact, but you can also contact local organisations to ask what they are doing to ensure they employ hedgehog friendly practices.
On top of this, you can get in touch with your local MP or councillors to find out more about what they are doing to promote hedgehog friendly spaces in your local area. And to top it off, you can even get in touch with local and national wildlife charities to offer your support.