Is Your Garden too Tidy for Hedgehogs?
In the last 50 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen from 3 million to 1 million. Whether you live in a rural or urban area, you can help by creating a mini hedgehog-habitat in your garden.
Over 100,000 hedgehogs are killed on UK roads every year, but that’s not the main reason for declining numbers.
In rural areas, the main culprit is pesticide use and the removal of hedgerows for agriculture.
“This kind of barren one-crop landscape has removed the amount of area that hedgehogs can live in,” Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for the campaign group, Hedgehog Street, said. “The large-scale pesticide use has reduced the amount of food for them to eat – there are fewer invertebrates.”
In urban areas, the trend for smaller and tidier gardens means that hedgehogs don’t have enough suitable areas for sheltering or foraging.
A single garden is not enough to provide a complete hedgehog habitat. Hedgehogs are nomadic, walking up to two miles a night. They will use a network of gardens and other suitable areas to find shelter, nest, forage for food, and connect with other hedgehogs.
What you can do to help
Hedgehog Street campaigns to encourage neighbours in rural and semi-rural areas to work together to create an ideal hedgehog environment throughout their street or estate. Hedgehogs are able to travel between gardens with each garden in the network contributing to the habitat.
What makes the ideal hedgehog garden network?
It’s really important for the hedgehog to be able to access the gardens. Create at least two small holes in your fencing at ground level, one at each side, about 8 cm wide and 8 cm high.
Wood piles are perfect for nesting and hibernating. They also harbour lots of insects for hedgehogs to eat. Make a pile in a quiet corner of your garden and replenish it with more as the wood rots down. It’s important not to disturb the woodpile, especially during late spring and summer while hedgehogs may be nesting and rearing young.
Leaf piles make great bedding and sometimes hedgehogs will even nest in a pile of leaves. Compost heaps are another favourite for nesting and provide plenty of worms for hedgehog food.
Leave an area of your garden ‘wild’
Choose one area of your garden to leave alone. Most people do a complete tidy up once or twice a year and this often destroys hibernation or nesting sites. It also kills off many of the insects that hedgehogs eat. Simply leave one part of your garden alone and allow it to grow wild!
Hedgehogs love ponds
Ponds attract insects and amphibians to your garden and surprisingly, hedgehogs are great swimmers! They will enter ponds in search of food. Make sure your pond has sloping sides to allow the hedgehog to get back out again. Although they can swim well, they have been known to drown in garden ponds because the edges were too steep for them to get back out.
Make a simple hedgehog house
Although creating a more natural home, such as a wood or leaf pile, or a compost heap is always better, if you can’t do that, you could build a DIY hedgehog house instead.
A plastic storage container, milk crate or similar will do the job, providing it has enough holes in it.