The humble hedgehog is surely one of Britain’s and US most delightful animals. The hedgehog is also one of only a few animals native to Britain that truly hibernates. Hedgehogs spend most of their day sleeping and tend to wake up only when it gets dark. If you see a hedgehog during the day it can often signify a problem. During the night male hedgehogs can travel up to 3km from their home and enter a number of female territories. They are not particularly fussy where they go, but will return to any reliable source of food.
They do not mark their territories in any particular way but they do leave a faint scent trail where their underside brushes against the ground. Females, however, are less adventurous and only travel about 1km a night to find food for themselves and their young. Hedgehogs can swim but they tire easily and can often drown in a pond or pool with no easy way of escape. One strange and as yet still not properly explained habit the hedgehog has, is ‘self-anointing’ or licking their bodies with a frothy saliva. It is possible that this is to ward off fleas or to deter potential predators.
Hedgehogs are in big trouble though – their numbers have decreased significantly mainly due to the destruction of their traditional habitat. Also, there is less food for them to eat and the constant risk of being run over. If the current decline continues there is a high chance that the hedgehog will become extinct.
Autumn is the most critical time of year for the hedgehog as they get themselves ready for the long winter hibernation. But they must find a place to build their dens and this is the most dangerous job for them. Many head to the nearest pile of logs – which could soon be going up in smoke. So please check all bonfires in the days leading up to Bonfire Night.
Ways to Attracting Hedgehogs into Your Garden
- Avoid using pesticides, especially slug pellets, as they contain enough poison to kill an adult hedgehog.
- Make a compost heap as they are ideal places for a hedgehog to forage for food.
- Put food out – but NOT bread and milk! Mealworms or cat food are much better.
- Also put some fresh water out as hedgehogs do like a drink.
- Do not keep a cat; as well as killing birds, cats are lethal to baby hedgehogs as their spines have not developed enough to put off an attacker.
- If you have a pond make sure it has an escape route for any falling hedgehogs like bricks or a ramp.
- Check long grass for hedgehogs if you are mowing the lawn.
- Leave a hole in the bottom of your garden fence so hedgehogs can get easily in and out.
If you do find a injured or distressed hedgehog then please call animal ambulance and get it to safe place.