Top Tips on Caring for Hedgehogs
The arrival of spring is here. Snowdrops have bloomed in droves, crocuses are poking up through lawns and flower beds - and it won’t be long before the wonderful hedgehog starts to grace us with its presence again. Hedgehogs are one of our best-loved animals, but many people are unaware that their numbers are in rapid decline and many populations are really struggling due to habitat destruction, loss of food supplies and severe weather. As the tiny mammals prepare to emerge from hibernation, why not do your bit to ensure those visiting your garden prosper? Here are some top tips on how to go about this.
When will hedgehogs wake up?
Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid-March, but their emergence can vary depending on weather conditions. For instance, we’ve already been getting scattered reports of sightings in milder parts of the country, whereas the creatures might not be seen at higher altitudes for several weeks yet - especially if there is still snow and ice around.
Helping them find food
When hedgehogs come out of hibernation, their fat reserves will be running low. They may have lost up to a third of their body weight, so eating as soon as possible is very important. Although people assume that bread and milk are best for these animals, they can actually cause diarrhoea, so canned dog food, minced meat or scrambled eggs are better if you want to put supplies out for them as soon as they emerge. Don’t forget a bowl of clean water, too. We’ve also got specially formulated Hedgehog Food, which is an ideal substitute for the invertebrates they really like to eat.
Providing hedgehog habitats
It’s tempting once spring emerges to go outside and attack your scruffy flower beds and lawns with secateurs and mowers, but don’t get too harsh with all the foliage. Hedgehogs will thank you if you leave at least a small corner as it gives them places to hide and can also help them to move around to other habitats without being seen. You can even provide some safe shelter among the grass and leaves to provide a secure refuge for expectant mothers and, later in the year, as a hibernation site. We have special Hedgehog Houses that make ideal homes for them.
Take care with garden equipment
Be careful when you do get the lawnmower and strimmer out, as small hedgehogs can easily be missed among long grass and the results can be devastating. Go around with a broom or your feet first, checking for any of your spiky friends and herding them to other parts of the garden before you flick that power switch.
Also, use pesticides only where you feel you absolutely must as hedgehogs might eat things like slug pellets, or consume pests that have been poisoned by them. This can do them serious harm even at low doses so use as a last resort or, far better, concentrate on growing plants that are resistant to slugs and snails. If you can, try natural alternatives such as beer traps and copper tapes around your plant pots. If you grow some slug and snail-luring plants in your wild section of garden, this might also tempt them away from your prized blooms, as well as providing an in situ food source for the hedgehogs.
Seek help if you see a sick hedgehog
Sometimes, you might spot a hedgehog that is out in the daytime, but take care to observe if it is not moving, visibly hurt or unsteady on its feet, as this might mean it is in trouble. In the first instance, get it out of predators’ reach by putting on a pair of gloves and gently moving it to a cardboard box, and then contact your local wildlife hospital as the creature may need expert care.
Do let us know when you spot the first hedgehogs in your garden this year!
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